In order to decrease the cost of waste management, (Morning Times (Sayre, PA), 12/15/04), in 2004 Chemung County leased its landfill to Casella Waste Systems, with a plan to more than double the waste acceptance rate, from 80,000 tons a year to 180,000 tons, and take over all four county transfer stations. That will require drawing in waste from well outside the county, and probably decreasing the county's recycling rate. Star Gazette (Elmira/Corning, NY), 4/10/07. As the local news has noted, the County adopted "lead agency" status under SEQRA, which reduces the scope of DEC's permit review to the agency's regulatory requirements. Star Gazette, 4/11/07. Community impacts, for example, will not be reviewed by DEC.
In June, 2006, Casella threatened to close the Elmira milling station, used as a transfer station for the City. This would force Elmira to truck its waste directly to the landfill, at considerable expense.
Where privatization at Casella's hands has happened in the past, curbside garbage pickup costs have increased, even doubled, within two years. That's because when Casella comes in, it aims to own the haulers and the transfer stations nearby, but not all municipalities contracting for pickup service know that. So when the hauler tells the local village or city that the price must go up because the landfill charges more, it's not clear it's the same company passing down the price hike to its subsidiary. No real increase in the cost of doing business has occurred.
Casella also has a dismal track record complying with environmental laws. The company's hauler's were busted three years ago by the NY Attorney General for dumping recyclables into local landfills in the Schenectady area. New England towns and cities, where Casella dominates the waste market, have sued the company and been sued by it over disputes about its performance and its pollution. Casella's West Old Town Landfill in Bangor, Maine, mnade the list of the twelve most toxic sites in New England, put out by the Toxics Action Center, after a review by a committee of scientists and environmentalists from throughout New England.
In November Casella rolled out a property buy-out plan for properties next to the landfill. Casella's engineer then found the gasoline additive chloroethane in groundwater test wells on the site at five times the level allowed by current regulations, raising the prospect of chronic exposure to low levels of the substance for workers and nearby residents, through evaporation.
The following year DEC investigators found that lead-contaminated foundry sand from a local industry had been illegally dumped for years in the landfill. Still, the County saw its landfill as a positive "asset" it could sell to Casella, and the host town caved in once Casella offered it $10 million a year. That was enough to get the Town of Chemung to rescind its landfill ban law.
One by one, rural New York counties succumb to the dump fairy: a promise of a slice of revenue generated by capturing the regional waste market and controlling prices. Is this good for the citizens? Obviously not--more is taken out their pocket, and their town or county is still on the hook for the cost of the cleanup decades (or sooner) down the road. that's because muncipalities who contract with polluters are responsible for 100% of the cost of remediating a polluted site after the company is gone--merged or acquired by another company, or just shut down and the assets distributed to the owners. Municipalities don't go away. Sooner or later, the chickens come home to roost.