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LANDFILL: Open house offers look into operation, environmental safeguards

Seneca Meadows opened its doors and welcomed the community to take a look inside at the inner workings of a landfill.

Hundreds of people visited Seneca Meadows yesterday, Sunday, July 30 where they had opportunity to gather a wealth of information about the landfill and the other organizations Seneca Meadows contracts with to operate the landfill.

Tables lined the perimeter of a large tent where representatives from the various contracting agencies working with Seneca Meadows were on hand to talk about the services they offer, how it benefits the landfill and community and to answer questions – even the hard ones. Informational brochures were also available at each table offering in-depth facts about the processing facility, the engineers, how the landfill gas is turned in natural gas and electric, odor control, renewable energy produced by the landfill, recycling at the landfill, the liner system that protects the environment and the wetland preserve.

Faith Page, from Applied Ecological Services, Inc., shared exciting news about the landfill’s wetland preserve. Approximately 600 acres, Page said they have been working on the preserve for about eight years. They are no longer in the construction phase, so they work on maintenance, treating invasive species with pesticides, seeding native plants and keeping the wetland’s environment healthy. The most recent addition to the preserve was platforms for Osprey and Page was excited to share that a nest has been built on a platform and they are hopeful it will be filled eggs and chirping babies soon.

One of the new falcons yet to be named at the landfill. This is the male that at three months old is already full grown.

The preserve has a variety of short trails and a longer trail that’s about three miles total. Along the trails, hikers might see an eagle, fox, raccoons or other wildlife. For bird, wildflower and butterfly enthusiasts, it’s a haven, Page said. Recently, a Sandhill Crane has been spotted in the area. A special find if you happen to spot one, a Sandhill Crane looks a lot like a Heron, but has a streak of red on its head.

Page said, what’s nice about the preserve is that it’s here for the long haul and eventually it will be taken over by a group or organization to maintain for years to come.

“It’s a preserve so it’s not going anywhere,” she said.

Another interesting feature at the landfill are the falcons. Steve Arndt from American Falconry Services, said they house 12 birds at the landfill and they work everyday. Falconry employees spend all day sitting at the site launching falcons as needed to chase away the seagulls. The seagulls are no real threat, just a nuisance to the landfill and surrounding businesses. A migratory bird, they are literally passing through when they make a pit stop at the landfill. Typically they see about 1,000 to 2,000 seagulls at a time, Arndt said. During the worst time of the year, like this past spring with several inches of late snow that trapped the seagulls at the landfill, Arndt said they can upwards of 20,000 gulls or more.

The landfill welcomed four brand new falcons, born this past May. During the open house, visitors took the opportunity to select a name for each of the new birds. The winning names have not yet been announced.

One of the landfill cells in the process of being capped.

“We held our first open house in 2003 to give folks a chance to see the incredible work that our team does here to safeguard the environment,” Kyle Black, Seneca Meadows district manager, said. “We see up to 2,000 people in a day. It’s been a wonderful opportunity to connect with our community.”

For those landfill naysayers who wanted to learn more about the facility, the bus tour proved most informative. The bus took visitors up and around the landfill site showing the tire collection site, many of which are used in the landfill construction. The stormwater ponds is where water is collected, and once full, the water is sampled. That sample is sent to the Department of Environmental Conservation. With DEC approval, the water is released and the pond is ready to be filled again.

Ongoing construction at the new cell site.

From there, the tour brought visitors past the scales where they track how much garbage is being brought into the site. Before reaching the scales, trucks pass through radiation detectors that are so sensitive they once detected the radiation from a truck driver who was undergoing chemotherapy. If the detectors do go off, the landfill employees have the proper equipment to deal with it, but, the tour guide said, most often it is something minor and easily disposed of properly.

The bus also passed a section where all Seneca County residents can bring their garbage, recycling and unwanted electronics for disposal – and it’s all free.

A view from atop the landfill looking out across Route 414 at the gas plant.

The tour showed the old landfill cell that is still in the process of being capped, the new cell that is under construction and up higher on the site to look down across Route 414 to the landfill gas plant.

In the 1980s New York had some 400 landfills, but due to the rising cost to maintain a landfill and new, stricter regulations, that number has dropped dramatically. Today they are only 27 landfills in the state. The tour guide said, people often ask why bring garbage in from other places and this is why – garbage just can’t be dumped in a local landfill anymore.

Questions were readily answered by the tour guide. One guest commented that she found the tour to be quite informative.

The free event also offered visitors activities and games for prizes for the kids, food and drinks, a bounce house, a magic and variety show and a train ride.

Tammy Whitacre is a reporter for FL1 News covering Seneca and Wayne counties. Send news tips to tammy@fingerlakes1.com and follow @FL1_TWhitacre for the latest.

One of the female falcons new to the landfill that has yet to be named.
A bird’s eye view of the tire collection area.
Guests enjoyed Paul Antonio’s magic and variety show.

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