backs larger landfill
County will ask state for approval to increase annual
April 10, 2007
By Jeff Murray
The Chemung County Legislature on
Monday voted to move ahead with a controversial permit application to
increase the capacity of the Chemung County landfill, despite protests
from neighboring residents.
In a 13-2 vote, lawmakers agreed to ask the state
Department of Environmental Conservation for permission to increase
annual capacity from 120,000 tons of solid waste to 180,000 tons.
For months, residents who live near the landfill off
state Route 17 in the town of Chemung have argued that the facility
already causes a host of environmental problems, and that increasing
capacity by 50 percent will only make things worse.
They have repeatedly asked the county and Casella
Waste Management, the private firm that operates the landfill for the
county, to do a full environmental review, something county officials
say isn't necessary for this permit modification.
On Monday, some opponents tried a slightly different
tact. In addition to citing concerns about traffic, noise and odor,
some people pointed out that the expanding landfill could threaten
historic sites -- namely Newtown Battlefield.
"You are doing a lousy job managing your resources,
including historic sites. You don't have an appreciation of history,"
said Ray Ward of Waverly, a World War II veteran who said locating the
landfill so close to the Revolutionary War battle site is tantamount to
spitting on the graves of the soldiers who died there.
"We have a celebrated Revolutionary War site in
Chemung," added resident Robin Stroman. "I
don't see how you can continue this discussion seeing that the National
Park Service recently gave Newtown Battlefield its highest ranking."
Others remained concerned that there hasn't been
enough investigation of the impact the increase in landfill dumping
would have on the environment.
"I strongly feel you folks are waltzing with the
devil. We don't know what the outcome will be 50 or 100 years from
now," said Tom Giles of Maple Valley Farms. "I do not feel we have
enough information. Before we do anything, we need to look at the whole
situation more objectively."
Despite those admonitions, county lawmakers voted to
send the request on to the DEC for its review.
Legislators Terry McLaughlin, D-9th District, and
Andy Patros, D-15th District, were the lone dissenters.
"Given the request will also mean an increase in
traffic of four trucks per hour, and that a new interchange most likely
will not be in place until 2010, I will vote no," said Patros, who said
he will now ask that the county sheriff's department monitor traffic in
that area more closely.
"I can't see why we're going so far beyond our own
ability to get rid of our own garbage," McLaughlin said in casting his
But the county did not ignore the concerns of the
residents who have opposed increasing the landfill's capacity, said
Gale Wolfe, director of environmental services for the Chemung County
Solid Waste District.
Every objection that was brought up was vigorously
investigated, Wolfe said.
"The county has done due diligence in reviewing
every concern the public has raised. We have looked at every aspect of
the concerns. We brought in experts in the field," said Wolfe, who said
the DEC has told the county that the landfill is not located over or
connected to the Chemung River aquifer.
"(Residents) keep making claims that we are going to
hurt the Chesapeake Basin. DEC says we are not channeled into the
aquifer," Wolfe said. "I am very impressed with Casella and
their environmental ethics. I feel real good that they are there
watching our environment."