By Matt Youngfrau
MONTICELLO August 29, 2003 Although it does depend on who you talk to, the Sullivan County Landfill usually elicits either concerns from those who are against it health risks, environmental hazards, causing the area to lose visitors and residents or positives from those who feel it is needed to keep the county out of debt.
To sort out this continuing controversy, a meeting was called on Tuesday at the Sullivan County Government Center. More than 50 concerned citizens and members of the Special Protection of the Environment for the County of Sullivan (SPECS) met with county officials to discuss the landfill.
Representing the county were seven legislators (District 3 Legislator Greg Goldstein and District 4 Legislator Don Trotta were unable to attend), Sullivan County General Services Commissioner Harvey Smith, and Sullivan County Solid Waste Management Director John Kehlenbeck. Smith and Kehlenbeck made a presentation on the history of the landfill and its proposed expansion.
There is a lot of information out there, Smith stated. It is somewhat inaccurate. Tonight, we will discuss the proposed expansion and the history. In the future, there will be other forums to discuss the other issues.
Smith said the Village of Monticello founded the landfill around 1950. He characterized it as an unlined dump, meaning it had no facilities to contain seepage.
That landfill served the village and the Town of Thompson through the 1970s. In the 1980s, the county acquired it from the village, closed it, and created the county landfill.
Today, the landfill, which takes in 200,000 tons of trash a year, is regulated by strict state and federal guidelines, said Smith.
Smith then talked about the proposed landfill, which would connect with the existing landfill. There would be a buffer so it would not be visible from the road. There would also be screening to block the view as it grows.
Smith also said the landfill is currently 250 feet high, and over the next 40 to 50 years, it will rise to a maximum height of 100 additional feet.
People asked what kind of garbage is brought in and if it is monitored. Smith replied that there is no industrial waste imported. The only thing dumped there is household garbage.
Also, he said they are addressing the odor issue. Officials expect a major difference once a plant is built to turn the methane gas into green power (electricity).
Kehlenbeck announced that there is going to be testing of the wells around the landfill. They sent out 31 notices to get permission to test those wells and send the results to a lab. That testing is scheduled to begin the week of September 9.
Residents kept peppering Smith and Kehlenbeck with many questions on different subjects. While not avoiding the questions, the two were only prepared to discuss the history and the expansion. That was not good enough for the residents, whose angry statements gave officials little chance to respond.
[Kehlenbeck] has been to my house nine million times, commented resident Lynn Marsala. You smelled gas. You took tests, and I am waiting for the results. Ill be dead by the time you get them.
Kehlenbeck stated they had not come in yet. He would check and get back to her.
District 5 Legislator Rodney Gaebel, who chairs the Public Works Committee which oversees the landfill, tried to bring some order to the meeting.
We set up this meeting on short notice, Gaebel said. There will be a series of meetings on many issues. There will be more notice, not a three- or four-day notice. We will have experts here to answer your questions. We will schedule the meetings in the evening so all of you can make them.
Gaebel stated that the application for the Phase II expansion had yet to be completed. When it was done, there would be informational meetings and public hearings on the matter.
The county and the DEC want to hear what you have to say, Gaebel remarked. This is not cast in stone. You will have an opportunity to talk.
Many residents requested that the first meetings be on health and odor issues. Gaebel said they would accommodate that.
The next meeting has yet to be scheduled.