By Nathan Mayberg
MONTICELLO July 14, 2006 The success of Sullivan Countys proposed phase 2 expansion to double the size of its landfill remains an open question as another issues conference continued on Wednesday and Thursday between the county and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), Concerned Citizens (representing the Mountain Lodge Estates Bungalow Colony across the street from the landfill) and the Town of Thompson.
The county has been seeking a permit for the expansion for over a year. Most of the objections raised by the DEC last year have been dropped, but several still remain. If the DEC was to ultimately agree on a permit for the expansion, it would require the county to operate its current landfill with no significant odor violations for six months before the county could begin site-clearing work.
That condition was strenuously opposed by Sullivan County Attorney Sam Yasgur, who claimed that no landfill in the state could meet such a requirement.
DEC Administrative Law Judge Edward Buhrmaster questioned the regional office staff and attorney on whether they had a fitness issue and if there was precedent for such a requirement.
Assistant Regional Attorney Carol Krebs said the countys history of non-compliance and odor complaints was the reason for the stiff requirement. The county is routinely cited for odor violations, as was noted by Buhrmaster at the hearing. Although Krebs admitted there was no precedent for the action, she said the DEC was following an established model to achieve compliance.
The DEC issued an order of consent against the county in 2003 due to major technical problems at the site, which resulted in major odor violations. The county responded by pouring millions into hiring a new engineering consulting firm and beefing up equipment. However, that has not been enough. And, as Krebs stated, the DEC has no assurances that the county will be able to comply with a much larger landfill.
Gary Abraham, attorney for Concerned Citizens, argued that the county could avoid the odor problems with the landfill by eliminating its intake of construction and demolition debris, which he said account for more than 25 percent of all waste accepted at the landfill. Abraham suggested that Taylor Recycling, based in Orange County, could be an alternative processor of local C&D material.
He said the unprocessed construction and demolition debris being accepted by the county has led to an excessive amount of hydrogen sulfide being released into the atmosphere, one of the main odors released from the landfill. Abraham said the data was collected by the county.
However, the county and the DEC have claimed that Abraham waited too long to make his arguments on that matter.
Abraham enraged Yasgur when he suggested a statement was untrue. The countys attorney had a short outburst in which he yelled at Abraham, calling him reckless and misleading.
Another surprising aspect of the hearing was the DECs continued willingness to allow the county to construct about an acre of its phase 2 expansion on a 28.5-acre state-protected wetland at the site. According to the DEC, the county can do so because its regulations do not forbid such construction on a landfill expansion. That prompted Abraham to claim that anybody could build a landfill near a wetland and then expand over the wetland at a later date.
The DEC indicated that it wants the county to offer a new recycling analysis to its solid waste plan, which was set up in 1992. Abraham stated that the original plan called for the county to recycle 68 percent of its waste. According to the attorney, the county never surpassed a recycling rate of 10 percent. Meanwhile, the statewide average is 42 percent.
Abraham attacked the DECs intent to give the county 90 days after a permit was issued to offer a plan when the county has shown it is unable to recycle now.
One of the issues that appears to have been settled is the landfills impact as a flying hazard. There was some debate at the last hearing in April as to whether the old Monticello Airport was still in use. The airport has been purchased and has received approvals to be turned into a racetrack. However, there are still two airplanes on the ground. And there are plans to use helicopters on the site.
But a letter from the Federal Aviation Administration indicating that it did not believe the landfills expansion up to 1,500 feet above sea level was a hazard has apparently satisfied the DEC, as stated by Krebs on Wednesday.
Residents of Mountain Lodge Estates, including about two dozen children, were at the hearing during part of the day. Members of SPECS also witnessed the hearings.
The Town of Thompson was represented by its attorney, Michael Mednick. Mednick did not make any major statements but reiterated the towns continued opposition to the expansion of the landfill.