Waste Management's C.I.D. Landfill in Sardinia
The C.I.D Landfill in the Town of Sardinia (Erie Co.) is the oldest operating landfill in New York, and should be closed under New York's policy, decided in the mid-1980s, to force old unlined landfills to close to make way for modern, double-lined landfills. However, Waste Management, Inc. has placed the landfill on it's proposed national waste-by-rail system and Waste Management of New York proposes to more than double the landfill's size. In 2002 three residents living adjacent to the CID landfill filed a citizen enforcement action in federal court, alleging ongoing violations of the federal Solid Waste Disposal Act (RCRA), the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and town law prohibiting construction of the landfill within 50 of a town road. The plaintiffs also made use of opportunities to comment on the landfill's Title V air operating permit, and petition the EPA to object to the permit after it was incorrectly issued by the DEC. Waste Management settled with the plaintiffs in December, 2003. On June 30, 2003, the EPA ordered the DEC to correct mistakes in the landfill's Title V air permit within 90 days. EPA found the mistakes after reviewing petitions from NYPIRG and the citizen suit plaintiffs. The EPA order means the permit will have to be re-drafted and opened to public comments again. Among the issues to be decided is whether the landfill can avoid New Source Review under the Clean Air Act, which would require air quality testing and costly purchase of emission credits to offset at least 300 tons of odorless CO per year, which the DEC found the landfill could be emitting.
The Sardinia Town Board is considering whether to permit a new expansion of the landfill, adding 77 acres to the present 50-acre area devoted to disposal. On January 1, 2006, a new town supervisor opposed to the expansion will take office. Waste Management currently dumps less than half of its allowed limit of 600,000 tons per year, because it's nearing the end of its permitted life.
Numerous incidents of failure to contain waste, litter, leachate and toxic air emissions from the landfill have occurred in the last few years and are ongoing. Most people in the town want the landfill closed and properly contained, but the board seems to be unwilling to exercise its authority to impose more stringent controls than the DEC regulations, which provide minimum protections only.
New York towns have authority to insist on greater health and environmental protections than are provided under DEC regulations. No town that has exercised these powers to stop a landfill has been defeated. Elsewhere on our web site we've detailed the successes of the towns of Root, Eagle, Allen, Angelica, and Goshen.
Begun in 1958, Chaffee Landfill (then called CI.D.) was placed on the states hardous dump sites registry because of evidence that barrels of toxic waste were dumped in the 1960s. The original dump was excavated into a former pond bed and there remains some concern that groundwater moves below the landfill's current massive five to six million tons of waste.
The landfill is located over the Cattaraugus Creek Sole Source Aquifer, and therefore threatens residents far to the north and west of Chaffee. See 52 FR 36100 (Sept. 25, 1987). The landfill has also been leaking leachate and cover materials into surrounding wetlands and Hosmer Brook, a "Class C(TS)" trout spawning stream, the highest quality water classification in New York. Dick Penfold and Ron Chapin owned the landfill under the name CID Group until 1997, when they supported new town board candidates who favored expansion of the landfill. Soon after their candidates won, the landfill was sold to Waste Management of New York, and CID Group was renamed South Park Enterprises. Having failed to convince the Eagle town board to host a new dump, Penfold and Chapin moved to the Hudson Valley, where they've been preying on the Town of New Baltimore with the same tactics: if voters will elect new board members sympathetic to South Park's plan for a new landfill there, they'll get a million dollars a year like Sardinia. The Greenville Press, 8/22/2002. But major regional landfills in your backyard come with costs. In 1993, under the leadership of then-Supervisor Jon Peglow, the nearby Town of Barre rejected an offer by CID to build a landfill. In 1996, when talks with Modern Landfill, Inc. of Lewiston broke down, CID showed up at a meeting of the Eagle Town Board with a check for $2 million if they'd agree to a landfill for their town. That, too, was rejected. About the same time CID began peddling a landfill proposal to the Town of Allen in Allegany County. That, too, was rejected. In 1997 C.I.D. and its lucrative waste hauling and recycling contract with the City of Buffalo was purchased by USA Waste of Houston, Texas. The following year USA Waste purchased and merged with the much larger Waste Management, Inc., for a sale price of $15 billion. Now USA Waste is known by the name Waste Management, Inc., and the new company has members on the Board of Directors from both companies.
In July, 1999, WMI subsidiary C.I.D. applied to the DEC for permission to build a berm for the east side of their Sardinia landfill. This will require filling a small Class III Wetland and surrounding area of one acre. In return, C.I.D. is to exchange three acres of a Class I Wetland that has already been created south of the landfill.
Also in 1999, C.I.D. secured a 10-year agreement with 36 Buffalo suburban towns (NEST, the Northeast Southtowns Solid Waste Management Board) to accept their solid waste for as little as $27 per ton if NEST can generate enough waste. However, they could pay more than $44 per ton if they generate too little. This allows some NEST members to stop paying $50 to $55 per ton to burn their garbage at American Ref-Fuel's Niagara Falls incinerator. (Buffalo News, May 4, 1999, p. 4B and March 12, 1999, p. 5B)
In 1999 NYSDEC added over 3.5 million tons of solid waste to the 1.26 million tons that at the end of 1998 were left unused on the Chaffee Landfill's operating permit. (See NYSDEC state-wide landfill capacity data.) The berms were allowed to expand, but most of the added capacity came from an increase in permitted height, which made the slopes unusually steep and subject to erosion. In 2002, the DEC fined Waste Management for allowing one acre of wetlands, which surround the landfill on three sides, to be filled when the slope failure and dumped tons of berm material into the swamp. Waste Management has occasionally had to send workers out in boats to retrieve litter left to blow into the wetlands. Gagging landfill gas odors and truck traffic problems have plagued the town for years and led, in 1994, to a consent order requiring C.I.D. to install landfill gas collection wells and a flare to burn off the gas. In 1999, landfill gas became regulated in New York under the federal Clean Air Act, and Waste Management was required to install a much improved gas collection and control system on a 30-month schedule. It's been four years and the enhanced system, installed at the end of December, 2002, has not yet passed minimum performance tests. (For more on this see CCCC's discussion of toxic substances carried by landfill gas.) However, Chaffee Landfill has a Title V air permit which assumes the landfill is in compliance with all air quality laws.
CONTROVERSY OVER NEW EXPANSION PROPOSAL
For a decade the landfill has pushed against the boundary of the 51 acres within which waste disposal is permitted and has now reached nearly 200 feet in height. On August 28, 2002, at 6:30 PM, at the Sardinia Town Hall Community Center, DEC conducted a public "scoping meeting" on Waste Management's proposal to add another 56 acres to the existing 51 acre footprint. This process results in a formal statement identifying (and limiting) the scope of matters to be considered in a larger environmental impact statement.
The expansion as originally proposed would "overfill" 14 acres on the western slope of the existing landfill. A new liner system would be installed above that portion of the existing landfill. This is less than the state-of-the-art protections called for by modern regulations (which are not flawless). For new landfills a double liner and leachate collection system must be constructed beneath all waste. Waste Management must therefore apply for and obtain a variance from the regulatory requirements from the DEC.
An attraction for Waste Management is the proximity of the Norfolk-Southern railroad line, across the road at Route 16. This anticipates New York City's plan to transport waste upstate by rail, with which Waste Management is reportedly involved.
The landfill sought NYSDEC's permission to increase soil and gravel mining at the landfill site, to provide daily and intermediate cover over existing and future landfilling areas. However, in response to comments from residents of Hand Rd., NYSDEC decided to limit permission to mining for use of the existing landfill area only.
Even this much is, arguably, in violation of the Sardinia mining ordinance, which prohibits any new mining in the Town.
Waste Management must also apply for local approval for a major expansion. DEC approval is not enough. If the landfill expansion proposal is approved, the Chaffee Landfill will remain active for decades.
CONTROVERSY OVER LANDFILL GAS
As the landfill reaches capacity, emissions of air pollutants get worse. Waste Management submitted a Title V permit application last summer that elicited comments from the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) and three local residents, posted below. A Title V permit is supposed to collect all requirements under the Clean Air Act that apply in one place, in a manner that is clear and encforceable by the general public. Violations of any requirements listed in the Title V permit may be enforced by citizens in federal district court.
DEC rejected all comments and issued the permit in June, 2002. Three Chaffee residents and NYPIRG petitioned the EPA to object to the permit. Importantly, the residents charged that the landfill was supposed to install landfill gas controls to destroy air toxics by March 17, 2002 and failed to do so. (See Comment #7, dated July 17, 2003, link below.) The landfill installed controls on December 31, 2002, but the new controls have failed to pass all performance tests and comply with the minimum required protections.
As a result of the new controls, Waste Management is collected more landfill gas than ever. This led them to request a modification of the Title V permit from the DEC, allowing them to increase gas flow to the landfill gas flare. However, doing so may increase carbon monoxide emissons from the flare so high that Waste Management must perform air quality tests in the area and show that continuing to add waste is economically and environmentally better than shutting the landfill down.
When residents submitted comments saying that, WM withdrew its application rather than allow the DEC to consider the comments. However, this only delays the time WM will have to face the music.
On June 30, 2003, the EPA found important requirements under the Clean Air Act were overlooked by the DEC. The EPA ordered the DEC to reopen Chaffee Landfill's June, 2002 Title V permit within 90 days.
MORE RESOURCES (in PDF format, unless noted otherwise):
Documents (PDF unless noted otherwise):
Citizen suit under RCRA, Clean Air Act & Clean Water Act (9/5/2002), settled January, 2004 (EMAIL US FOR A COPY)
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