By Nathan Mayberg
MONTICELLO April 16, 2004 The fate of the Sullivan County Landfill began to take shape yesterday at the Sullivan County Government Center.
The first part of a two-day issues conference was rigorous, with discussion commencing around 10 a.m. and not expected to halt until 5 p.m. amongst attorneys representing the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Sullivan County, the Sullivan County Association of Supervisors, the Town of Thompson, the Village of Monticello, and SPECS (Society for the Protection of the Environment in the County of Sullivan, a group representing individuals who live near and around the landfill).
The regional office of the DEC is supporting the issuance of a permit for the expansion of the landfill into Cell 6. Jonah Triebwasser, the assistant regional attorney, said that the regional office is supporting the countys application for Cell 6, so long as the odor problem is brought under control.
They would also ask that the county take in no more than 200,000 tons of garbage a year. The county currently is allowed 4,000 tons a week during the regular year, and up to 5,500 tons a week between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
However, there was some dispute among the attorneys as to the specifics of that agreement.
Administrative Law Judge for NYSDEC Edward Buhrmaster will be issuing a ruling on the need for an adjudicative hearing. That ruling could be appealed to the NYS DEC commissioner. However, if that process runs into the month of June, County Manager Dan Briggs said there will not be enough time to complete Cell 6 by the time cells 3, 4 and 5 run out of room around March 2005.
SPECS attorney Gary Abraham contended in opening statements that the DEC has failed to take any action, aside from a consenting order, against the county for its weekly odor violations.
According to Abraham, the DEC issues reports on the landfill two to three times a week. And every week, there have been violations.
Abraham was also disappointed in the failure of the DEC to provide their reports from the last two years or information regarding other permits.
David Engel, part of the law firm representing the Association of Supervisors, said the towns in the county rely on the landfill as their sole means of waste disposal. He claimed the towns have no infrastructure to handle the waste and that the failure of the DEC to issue a permit for Cell 6 would cause significant environmental and economic impacts on the towns.
However, Engel said he agrees there is a compliance problem and odor problem with the county.
But he called the landfill a precious resource. The concern of the towns, he stated, was that the landfill was being exhausted through the continuing importation of garbage from outside the county.
Rockland County, he claimed, uses 40 percent of the landfills space on an annual basis. He called it a tremendous concern to the members of the association.
The Town of Thompson and Village of Monticello were both represented by Ben Gailey of the law firm Jacobowitz and Gubits. He stated that the landfill has been in violation of environmental laws and a nuisance to the community. Gailey said the town and village objected to the amount of tonnage being taken in at the landfill.
He called on the DEC to restrict the importation of garbage to the landfill.
Triebwasser and Buhrmaster both agreed that the DEC had no authority to control from where the county imported its trash.
Gailey went on to comment that the landfill has serious problems with odor and litter.
The landfill has violated local odor laws, added Gailey. Furthermore, he questioned the countys compliance regarding the SEQRA process.
Triebwasser concurred with Gailey in that the county is obligated to follow local odor laws. The Town of Thompson has fined the county for violating the towns odor law.
Sullivan County itself was represented by County Attorney Sam Yasgur, who said the county had three operational flares that were working to curb the odor release from the landfill.
Buhrmaster wanted to know whether the county had a plan to control the odors. Yasgur said there was a plan between the county and the DEC which was approved in December 2003. But there was no plan since then.
Shouldnt there be an odor control plan now? asked Buhrmaster.
He said that an odor plan should have been put together before a new permit was issued.
DEC officials said they wanted to give the county time to put a plan together with SCS Engineering. SCS was hired earlier in the year to help oversee the landfill and work to control the odors.
Arguments will continue today from 10 a.m. until as late as 5 p.m. in the hearing room of the Sullivan County Government Center in Monticello.
Look for more coverage of the conference in Tuesdays Democrat.