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Residents Urging
County To Close Landfill

MONTICELLO —January 27, 2004 – A lack of answers proved frustrating to the public Thursday night in Monticello.
Yet even though the Government Center meeting regarding the odor from the Sullivan County Landfill was not really meant to immediately address residents’ questions, the comments and questions flew – and residents oftentimes answered their own queries.
“To put it bluntly, the landfill stinks,” said Dr. James Green, chair of the Town of Thompson’s Conservation Advisory Council. “You obviously have a problem you cannot control . . . and you have the nerve to propose an expansion of it?”
But county officials were saying they are bringing it under control through new equipment and upgrades to the existing odor mitigation system – although some of that new equipment isn’t due for a few more weeks.
The meeting, which was required by the state, was meant to illustrate the current and new methods the county is employing to deal with the hydrogen sulfide – a “rotten eggs” smell – that is travelling off the landfill site in Monticello and affecting homes as far away as Rock Hill.
One county official dared say that “things are getting better” – and was met with an angry rumble of “NOs” from the audience of about 100 people.
“Five out of seven days, it has smelled for several years,” said David Bunce, who lives about a mile south of the landfill on Southwoods Drive. “You’re doing jack! We’re tired of it, and the odors have got to stop.”
Most speakers linked the landfill to health problems in family and friends, although two tests last year did not detect any carcinogens.
One resident pointed out that the federal Environmental Protection Agency has acknowledged that landfills eventually have a detrimental effect on the surrounding environment, and another speaker even suggested the hydrogen sulfide created from the decomposition of the garbage could be “acidifying” people’s lungs.
“That landfill needs to be closed,” said Pat Cole, a nurse who lives in Monticello and has seen several residents succumb to cancer. “It is detrimental to our health. . . . And if I tried to sell my property, who’s going to buy it?”
Although the county has set up an odor complaint hotline, residents said all they get are excuses – if any answer at all.
“I’m told it smells because it’s hot, it’s cold, it’s rainy,” said resident Ken Heins. “Maybe it’s because of the high importation of garbage!”
Speaker after speaker – about three dozen in all – told of family members with health problems, or an inability to sit or play outside due to the noxious odors, or the continuing lack of progress in controlling those odors. (Indeed, county officials noted a spike in complaints this past year.)
“We’re talking about our children, our future,” stated resident Marie Ng. “But it’s falling on deaf ears here!”
“This has become a topic of discussion almost on a weekly basis for us,” said Monticello Mayor Gary Sommers. “What are we going to do about it now? There has to be some measure you can take now.”
But the measure most in attendance wanted – outright closure of the landfill – was not a promise County Manager Dan Briggs was willing to make.
Although residents like Connie Keller said the county could financially live without the landfill, legislators have been reluctant to take such a drastic measure, citing a loss of revenues from the tremendous amount of trash the county imports from other areas.
And Briggs reiterated that the matter was up to the legislators – only two of whom stayed for the entire meeting: Kathy LaBuda and Sam Wohl. (Rodney Gaebel, Ron Hiatt and Jodi Goodman were also noted to be in attendance but left halfway through.)
Briggs said five options – ranging from mitigation measures to closure – will be presented to the Legislature by his office within a month or so.
In the meantime, LaBuda promised to address the concerns.
A former county official, Alan Sorensen, also had an idea about commissioning a study of the landfill for economic development purposes.
Regardless, Ng was adamant that meetings turn into action.
“When are we going to stop having meetings?” she angrily questioned. “We’re waiting to hear something, and you’re meeting us to death!”

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