In anticipation of a decision regarding Local Law No. 2, protesters lined the street in front of the Seneca Falls Town Hall calling for a trash-free community.
Doug Avery, president of the grassroots group Seneca Falls Environmental Action Committee, wasn’t expecting the town board’s vote to go in the group’s favor, but members still came out in force to show their support.
What they received was a reprieve as the board tabled the decision on Local Law No. 2 until Friday, May 5th at 5 p.m. Town Supervisor Greg Lazzaro said at that meeting, the board will openly discuss the State Environmental Quality Review decision and may possibly vote on Local Law No. 2.
Avery said the group formed within the past year when resistance from board members became apparent regarding the closing of the Seneca Meadows landfill. According to Avery, Lazzaro has completely flipped from election platform when he supported the landfill’s closure. Now, Lazzaro talks about compromise and keeping the landfill up and running.
Over the last several weeks, the town board has been considering Local Law No. 2, which would rescind a law passed in 2016, Local Law No. 3, which made the operation of a landfill within the town illegal and requires Seneca Meadows to shut down operations by the year 2025. Seneca Meadows has since filed a suit against the town challenging the legality of the 2016 law.
A retired teacher, Avery has lived in Seneca Falls for 40 years, just two and a half miles from the landfill. He admits he has enjoyed the tax break the landfill has brought property owners, but “it’s time to stop.”
“I would pay a tax increase to see them close,” he said.
Avery cited the smell, truck traffic and the mountainous size of the landfill among the negative effects the landfill represents. Gas odor from the landfill is potentially harmful and can permeate a building, creating concern for students attending one of the three schools nearby. Of the 50 million tons of garbage being dumped into the landfill, Avery 98 percent of it comes from other places, especially New York City.
“There will be repercussions somewhere down the line,” he added.
With Local Law 3 still on the books, a scheduled closure would be eight years away, Avery said, give the town plenty of time to prepare for the monetary loss and for all those involved to deal with the inevitable job loss.
“They [Seneca Meadows] do donate to several nonprofits,” Avery conceded. “It will be up to us as a community to step up.”
With a 3-2 vote in favor of issuing Seneca Meadows an annual permit, a measure that has been on hold since last September due to an odor problem. The resolution’s passage broughts angry shouts from the audience as residents yelled to the supervisor, “You sold us out!” One resident voluntarily left the meeting after Lazzaro asked he be escorted from the building.
Lazzaro said among his concerns is the huge tax rate increase residents, particularly those living on fixed incomes. A recent study showed the tax rate would increase from 3.4 cents per $1,000 of assessed value to $10 per $1,000. The monetary loss to the town’s budget averages about $2.5 million. Seneca Meadows first quarterly payment this year under the host agreement was over $760,000.
The odor complaint has been the biggest problem and those calls have begun to decrease, Lazzaro said. In a mailer sent out by Seneca Meadows, the company has invested $7.5 million in odor control technology over the past year. Seneca Meadows is reporting a 30 percent increase in landfill gas collection system efficiency and they’re told it’s making a difference. According to the mailer, Seneca Meadows has installed over 25 acres of final cap, 12 acres of temporary cap, 50 vertical gas extraction wells, 21 horizontal gas collectors and 43 gas extraction pocket wells, and over 5,000 feet of header pipe that conveys the gas to the natural gas and electricity plants in the past 12 months.
They also have several construction projects planned including a liner installation, construction of geomembrane cover, more gas collector pipes and wells and the construction of a storm water pond.
The town board meeting to further discuss the issue will be held at the town hall in the courtroom May 5th.