ELLERY – Wednesday is the deadline for the New York Department of Environmental Conservation to accept comments on the proposed expansion of the Chautauqua County Landfill in Ellery.
The county is seeking the state’s permission to expand the landfill by 53 acres. According to county officials, the expansion is needed to extend the life of the landfill by 20 years. Under the request, the county also says there is no plan to increase the amount of daily waste coming in, with the limit remaining the same at 1,883 tons per day.
County officials have said that the expansion will help to continue the landfill’s long-term viability as not only a revenue generator for the county, but also to help to keep local waste disposal costs down. The county makes money off the landfill by not only accepting trash from residents, but also construction and industrial waste from both local and out-of-state businesses. In addition, the county is able to convert methane generated at the landfill into electricity, selling that energy to the grid to create another revenue stream.
Concerns over Landfill Expansion
Not everyone is in support of the expansion project. The town of Ellery has come out against the expansion, citing several environmental concerns including surface and groundwater contamination, runoff and erosion affecting nearby waters and wetlands, noise and odor impacts, and changes to the surrounding natural landscape.
Other opponents of the project have also voiced concern that the landfill expansion could open the door for the county to seek permission to allow for accepting hazardous and/or radioactive waste – including out-of-state fracking waste. They also cite a recent report by the Environmental Advocates of New York (EANY) claiming New York doesn’t have a strict system in place for tracking industrial waste coming into the state, with some of it containing hazardous waste from fracking operations. The fear is that should the county expansion take place, it could increase the chances for that fracking waste to make its way into the landfill and, as a result, the local watersheds.
‘No Hazardous Fracking Waste’ in County Landfill
Ellery Town Supervisor Arden Johnson told WRFA Tuesday that they’ve specifically looked into the fracking concern and to the best of the town’s knowledge, no fracking waste is currently coming in. County Landfill director Pantelis Panteli also told WRFA Tuesday that the landfill has never accepted fracking waste and New York has strict environmental regulations in place banning hazardous waste from entering the landfill (although that is heavily refuted by the EANY report). He also said the county is required to monitor and test all incoming industrial waste to ensure it is not hazardous.
A report from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Conservation – the state where fracking waste would most likely come from if coming into New York – also found that during 2011-2013, fracking waste of any kind was sent to six New York landfills, none of which were in Chautauqua County.
Still, the Town of Ellery and other opponents have said they will continue to look into the issue of fracking waste, and if the expansion goes forward, it may request the continue add language that specifically prohibits fracking waste of any kind from entering the landfill.
Consequences of Not Expanding
According to Panteli, if the state denies the county’s request to expand the landfill, it would run out of room within three to five years if it continues to accept waste at the current rate of about a thousand tons per day. He said the county would likely take measure to extend that time period by reducing the amount of waste that comes into the landfill. As a result, the county would also increase waste disposal rates – which would have an impact on resident’s local garbage collection bills.
Current rates for the landfill currently are as follows:
- $28/ton for municipal solid waste;
- $33.50/waste for construction debris, and;
- $32/ton for non-hazardous industrial waste.
Anyone interested in making a comment on the expansion can submit in writing to the DEC, which says ALL comments will be considered in making the final decision about issuance of the permit.
Written comments must be RECEIVED BY the end of the day on Wednesday, March 11. They can be sent via email to Dep.firstname.lastname@example.org or verbally submitted by calling the DEC office in Buffalo at (716) 851-7000.