As dumping capacity increases in Chemung, the Legislature
must ensure stern oversight.
April 12, 2007
In all likelihood, most of
Chemung County's 88,641 residents couldn't give you directions to the
county landfill in the town of Chemung. For them, the place might as
well be invisible. They tie up their garbage bags, put them on the curb
and watch the stuff disappear into a truck.
But for the 2,665 residents in the town of Chemung,
it's a different story. The landfill is a neighbor. For most, it is a
distant neighbor that doesn't give them any trouble, but for those
living closest to the landfill, it's a presence they wish would go away.
That's not going to happen, at least not any time
soon, and object as they may, those who don't like the landfill near
their homes are in a vocal minority. Just the same, they must be heard,
and the people who must continue to listen and monitor the very
property those neighbors worry about are the 15 Chemung County
On Monday, the Legislature voted 13-2 to increase
the capacity for dumping at the landfill by 50 percent, to 180,000 tons
a year. In doing so, all but two legislators rejected pleas by the
landfill's neighbors that the facility needs a full environmental
review before it can take on more waste. Legislators apparently were
satisfied that the executive branch of county government had done its
job in checking all environmental risks before recommending that the
landfill's private operator, Casella Waste Management, be allowed to
dump an extra 60,000 tons of waste in the landfill each year.
The Legislature's decision, though, does not wash
its hands of further oversight of the landfill. To the contrary, the
lawmakers' decision in March to act as the lead agency supervising the
landfill puts a legal and ethical responsibility on the 15 legislators
to ensure that the facility is not an environmental threat.
That means not only must legislators review any
health testing at the facility, but they must also ensure that
additional truck traffic does not damage roads, cause debris to be left
along roadsides and create any threat to motorist or pedestrian safety
in the immediate area around the facility. Any needed remediation of
such problems could come from the more than $90 million that the county
will receive over the 25-year life of its contract with Casella.
None of this monitoring may satisfy neighbors who
would sooner see the landfill close and move, but of course, the
question is to where? What other town would want a landfill? The answer
is obvious, so as long as it's going to be in Chemung, the landfill
must be watched with a vigilance that will give some reassurance to
neighbors even if it doesn't provide peace of mind. That's a job the
Legislature must carry out with the utmost diligence.