By Nathan Mayberg
MONTICELLO November 1, 2005 The consultants report on the Sullivan County Landfill given by Steven Lynch last week offered an insight into what it would cost the county to export its waste, rather than continue on with the Phase 2 expansion of its landfill.
According to the statistics compiled by Lynch, transporting the countys garbage to landfills such as Seneca Meadows in upstate New York or in Beach Lake, Pennsylvania, would cost an additional $8 to $15 per ton compared to what the county charges currently ($75 per ton).
This report was the first of three to be provided by Lynch. The next two will be on the need for the county to use five transfer stations, an overview of the recycling facility, and the impacts of a methane-to-energy project, which the county has been considering.
The next presentation by Lynch, expected within the next couple of weeks, will also feature a report on the possibility of buying out homeowners who live around the site. Sullivan County legislators Ron Hiatt and Kathleen LaBuda have been proponents of the idea for months, and Hiatt requested the report by Lynchs next appearance.
Lynch analyzed the possibility of the county returning to its importation days, which he said would cut the tonnage rate nearly in half but would also reduce the life expectancy of the dump by 30 years.
The county ended all of its importation contracts last year and is on pace to take in 80,000 tons of waste this year. That is in contrast to the 200,000 tons of waste it accepted in previous years. If the county took in an average of 80,000 tons for the rest of the life of the landfill, it would last until 2052, said Lynch. If it imported waste or increased its tonnage acceptance to a maximum of 200,000 tons a year, it would close in 2022. The current landfill is on track to reach maximum capacity by 2008 (with Cell 6).
If the county were to privatize its operations, said Lynch, that company would likely import. LaBuda responded to that option by noting the county would lose its control over the odor.
Lynch suggested municipalities pool together their waste as a way to save money by bidding out bulk contracts (as the Village of Wurtsboro does). Lynch said that could save households countywide about $2.7 million a year.
As for Taylor Recycling, which is looking to build a gasification and recycling plant in the county, Lynch recommended the county work with them in conjunction with a landfill.
In addition, he said the county should consider a host benefit to the Village of Monticello for being the site of the landfill expansion. Such benefits could include an outright cash payment in addition to a discount on their waste.
While Lynch did not provide an estimate of how much it will cost to buy out the numerous homeowners who live near the dump, he estimated it would cost at least $2 million. Legislator Rodney Gaebel suggested the county make up for the loss by accepting some importation. But afterwards, Legislature Chairman Chris Cunningham said the Legislature was not interested in returning to importation.
Should the county relocate the dump somewhere else? Lynch did not think so. He projected such a move would cost $1 million to $2 million just to find a suitable site and said that the odds of winning approval from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation are slim.
Such a move is obviously not on the radar screen, since the county is already in the deep stages of applying for expansion permits at its current landfill site.
Shirley Cohen, who lives near the landfill, was not pleased with the discussion.
You are talking in dollars and cents. It is unconscionable to have a dump where people are living, she told legislators.
Afterwards, Cunningham spoke favorably about the countys plans to move forward with the Phase 2 expansion of the landfill, which would greatly reduce its size and scope. He called the landfill an asset.
Operating a landfill is a very viable option for the county, he said. It allows the county to control its own destiny.
Cunningham said the county would be examining its recycling plant, which has been operating at a far lower level than its own solid waste plan says it should be.
The chairman believes the landfill makes financial sense, although he recognized the health concerns of many who live near it.
We have worked diligently with the community to control the odor. ... We no longer import waste as a policy. ... We wont just walk away from the landfill without analysis. He said the county has made great strides in its operation of the dump and has spent a lot of money doing so.
In response to the Village of Monticellos proposed local law which would restrict the expansion of the dump, Cunningham said the county attorneys office does not believe the village has the authority to enforce its own law.
Cunningham met with Village of Monticello Mayor James Barnicle and Manager Richard Sush several times over the last year in hopes of working together on a compromise. Ultimately, the sides were too far apart to avert a confrontation.
I understand the landfill is a quality-of-life issue for them. I would never discount them, but I have to make the best decision for 75,000 people, said Cunningham.