By Nathan Mayberg
MONTICELLO December 10, 2004 Ever since the legislative hearing room of the Sullivan County Government Center was first packed for a public hearing on the expansion of the Sullivan County Landfill this past February, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Administrative Law Judge Edward Buhrmaster has delayed the issuing of permits for Cell 6.
The main reason has been SPECS, the local group of citizens who have objected to the expansion of the landfill largely due to its smell and alleged health effects.
This past Tuesday, they were supposed to meet again in the third round of a match-up with the regional office of the DEC and the county. But only one SPECS member showed up.
Their attorney, Gary Abraham, was not there, and the one SPECS member didnt know why they werent better represented. When contacted later, several of the leading members of the group said they too didnt know why they werent properly represented.
Their absence indicated to Buhrmaster that SPECS has no problems with the odor control plan, which was the only matter dealt with at Tuesdays landfill issues conference.
Therefore, Buhrmaster said he will report back to DEC Commissioner Erin Crotty that he sees no issues related to odor control left for adjudication.
However, he said there could still be issues related to litter control.
SPECS currently has an appeal filed with Crotty over an earlier ruling of Buhrmasters which didnt allow for an issues conference to be held on other matters.
So SPECS will likely lose the help of Buhrmaster one of their major allies in their battle. The ball will now be almost entirely in Crottys court.
The regional DEC office, which has supported the expansion of the landfill from day one, had little problem with the county in finalizing terms of the odor control plan.
Buhrmaster made the odor control plan mandatory for any permit to be issued. The county had wanted it to be mandatory only after the permit was issued.
The meeting between the two parties did become testy at times when DEC officials said the county was looking to loosen regulations and inspections.
Since September of this year, the landfill has been cited nine times for odor violations. DEC on-site inspector William Myers reported that violations for the landfill had decreased since May.
County Attorney Sam Yasgur said the county will implement the new odor control plan once the permit for Cell 6 is issued. However, they will also institute changes to the odor hotline and send copies of the hotline log to SPECS each month.
DEC regional attorney Jonah Triebwasser said he was satisfied with the new plan. Afterwards, he said that if the new plan doesnt do the job, they [the county] will have to do more. . . . They are not off the hook.
Buhrmaster said it will take him at least a month to make his report. County officials have stated they need a permit by the spring so that Cell 6 can be opened by 2006. If not, they will run out of space at the current landfill.
In the meantime, the county is pushing forward with its much larger expansion, called Phase 2. Yasgur has already requested a legislative hearing for that phase, which could be held as early as February.