By Nathan Mayberg
MONTICELLO April 29, 2005 The many homeowners who reside near the Sullivan County Landfill have been increasingly vocal as the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation prepares to hold public hearings May 5 at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. at the Sullivan County Government Center in Monticello on the countys application for a permit for the Phase 2 expansion.
The new plans would more than triple the amount of waste accepted at the site while nearly doubling the overall acreage and raising the height of the landfill mound by 100 feet in Monticello.
The county currently owes more than $50 million due to landfill expenses.
Area residents have applied pressure to both the Village of Monticello Board and Town of Thompson Board recently to oppose the expansion. An issues conference has already been set for June between administrative law judge Edward Buhrmaster of the DEC, the regional office of the DEC, SPECS and Sullivan County.
The village attorneys are currently putting together a local law which would ban the landfill, according to Mayor James Barnicle, although the legal weight of such a law is uncertain. A public hearing and vote on the local law will be held May 9 at the Ted Stroebele Recreation Center.
The Town of Thompson is considering whether to once again use the law firm of Jacobowitz and Gubits to oppose the expansion at the issues conference, according to Town of Thompson Councilman William Rieber.
The board has scheduled an executive session to discuss the litigation issues before its regular board meeting this Tuesday at the town hall in Monticello.
Meanwhile, Sullivan County legislators are considering the use of a full-fledged recycling plant, such as Taylor Recycling, based in Montgomery, which would reduce the amount of waste deposited at the landfill.
A presentation was made by the company on Tuesday at the Sullivan County Legislature Hearing Room led by Public Works Committee Chairperson Kathleen LaBuda.
Tom Kacandes, the companys vice president, said the recycling plant would recycle more waste than the countys current recycling program does.
Do we build another landfill every 15 to 20 years? he asked.
Landfills are disappearing from New York State, he said. According to his numbers, there were over 280 operational landfills in the state 20 years ago. Now, there are less than 30.
Dangerous chemicals and compounds such as methyl mercury, hydrogen sulfide and methane are produced and released at landfills, he observed.
Currently, the company is proposing an expansion of its facility in Orange County but has not made a determination as to whether they would need to build a similar one in Sullivan County. However, Kacandes pointed out that there will still be a need for a landfill, whether it is in Monticello or elsewhere.
So far, the legislature continues to move forward with its application for its Phase 2 expansion, through its upcoming hearings and issues conferences.
The three-hour session was sparsely attended, save for several town supervisors, including Frank DeMayo, Salvatore Indelicato, Patricia Pomeroy, Victoria Simpson and Village of Monticello Trustee Gordon Jenkins. Sullivan County legislators Leni Binder, Rodney Gaebel and Sam Wohl were also present. Of all the legislators, Wohl has been the most adamant in his opposition to the landfill.
Bill Cutler, the countys recycling coordinator, gave an extended slide show about the countys current recycling efforts. In it, he urged county residents to do more recycling.
Recycling is mandated by the countys Local Law #1 of 1992. Currently, the county accepts newspapers, certain cardboard, glass, plastic containers and bottles, aluminum cans, tires, motor oil, anti-freeze, scrap metal, magazines and paper for free at its recycling station at the landfill.
In 2004, the county recycled 2,530 tons of paper, 2,146 tons of scrap metal and 646 tons of tires. Total recyclables accounted for less than 8 percent of the total waste dumped at the landfill.
Cutler also cautioned local residents against backyard burning of waste, which is dangerous in a number of ways, including its hefty contribution to pollution in the air. Those who partake in such burning are committing unconscionable acts, said Cutler.
Cutler also acknowledged that hazardous waste sometimes enters the landfill unknowingly to those who run it. As an example of how much hazardous waste is out there, he recalled a day when an individual brought a bowl full of mercury for the countys hazardous waste pick-up day. He has collected all of the mercury from thermostats that were thrown away.
Cutler urged those with questions about recycling to call him at 794-4466 or e-mail him at sullivan firstname.lastname@example.org
Although less waste would be better than the current rate for those who live near the landfill, SPECS opposes any expansion, primarily due to its alleged health effects, including several deaths from cancer and brain tumors.
And on Monday, April 18, at the Monticello Village Hall, the residents upped their rhetoric with an increasing amount of research and evidence.
Gene Weinstein remained at the forefront of those who had done their homework. He cited a New York State Department of Health statistic: leukemia is most commonly found among those who live near landfills. Low birth weight is the most commonly reported health effect of landfills, he continued.
All landfills are hazardous; eventually, the waste at the landfill, will seep its way into the ground water, said Weinstein. All landfills contaminated properties within 250 feet of the site, he added.
Kathy Diaco lives approximately 45 feet from the site and operates a day care for children, he pointed out.
One village resident rhetorically asked what kind of business would move to the village after the massive expansion of the landfill.
And if the health effects are benign, why does it require monitoring for so many years after it closes, the resident said.
Residents of Mountain Lodge Estates continued to be a presence at hearings involving the landfill. The residential community of 65 families would be within 100 yards of the proposed expansion.
Several residents said that local doctor Abraham Garfinkel had conducted a health study indicating a higher rate of disease among those who live near the landfill, as opposed to those who didnt. Others said there were New York State Department of Health Statistics which proved just that.
This will kill the village, Marie Ng said starkly.