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‘New vision’ could mean end to big landfills in Finger Lakes

A growing number of people are fed up with the stench, traffic and health concerns posed by area landfills and will turn out at events next week in Corning and Rochester. These and meetings statewide hosted by the state Department of Environmental Conservation will gather public input in forming a “new vision” for handling the state’s solid waste, DEC says.

Many want to see the Finger Lakes region end its run hosting the state’s three largest landfills: Seneca Meadows, High Acres, and the Ontario County landfill. As it stands, Seneca Meadows is scheduled to close in 2025 and the permit for the Ontario County landfill expires in 2028. But closing landfills, especially these giant ones, takes years and faces environmental, financial and other challenges.

“We need to focus all our resources to get off landfills,” said Geneva City Councilor Ken Camera. He will be one of those headed to the Corning meeting Tuesday, Feb. 26. Others in the area plan to attend the one in Rochester, Monday, Feb. 25.

‘Out of control’

Geneva, within 30 miles of all three landfills, is a prime spot for landfill traffic and odor. Now, with the Ontario County landfill in the throws of an expansion at its site in the town of Seneca, landfill stench is reaching more communities, including Canandaigua — in one sense, good news, if you can call it that.

“It’s unusual for people in Canandaigua to smell the landfill,” said Geneva Town Supervisor Mark Venuti. “It is out of control now.” Because of this, more people are realizing it’s not just a Geneva problem, he said.

Residents continue to press officials about landfill odor and connect with others feeling the effects.

Jean Cirone, a Geneva resident who teaches in Canandaigua, pointed to a real-time reporting app, “Fresh Air for the Eastside,” and wants something similar for the Ontario County landfill. Fresh Air for the Eastside is a space to collect and share information about noxious odors from High Acres landfill in Perinton. The app can differentiate odors (their composition and source) and automatically picks up locations via GPS technology and records weather conditions.

“Best of all, it automatically generates letters to the landfill, all the county supervisors and the DEC,” Cirone said. Meanwhile, she and others say getting a response from a hotline for odors from the Ontario County landfill can take more than an hour. By the time a landfill representative arrives, odors have dissipated, she said.

Ontario County and landfill manager Casella Waste Systems say they are working on improving the reporting system. Casella has hired two companies to help in odor control. Ontario County has its own contractor working on analysis and recommendations.

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