Citizens, Business Owners, Elected Officials and Community Organizations Share Concerns About New Waste Facility in the Finger Lakes

Citing concerns over PFAS and other issues, group collectively Urges Governor Cuomo to Deny Permits

Yvonne Taylor

For Immediate Release
Watkins Glen, NY – As the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) officials consider a plan to convert prime agricultural land to a Waste Transfer Facility in Schuyler County, community members held a Virtual Press Conference featuring residents, local decision makers and local business leaders opposed to the project.

Alternative Waste Systems has told DEC that it wants to turn land close to Connecticut Hill Wildlife Management Area and Newfield State Forest into a Materials Recovery Facility and Waste Transfer Station. The company is proposing to haul 500 tons of garbage and Construction / Demolition Debris via 185 trucks per day to an already busy and dangerous section of Route 13 in the Town of Cayuta, NY. Solid Waste, Construction Debris, and the nearly 30,000 gallons of leachate produced by the facility would contain the forever chemical PFAS, which can cause developmental effects in infants, lower a woman’s chance of getting pregnant, increase a woman’s blood pressure during pregnancy, lower infant birth weights, interfere with the body’s natural hormones, increase cholesterol levels, affect the immune system and increase the risk of cancer. There is no routine monitoring of wastewater treatment plants for PFAS, nor are there any limits set. According to the application the PFAS contaminated leachate would be sent to Tompkins County Wastewater Treatment Facility, which gets discharged into Cayuga Lake. The plans are currently awaiting approval by DEC.

Mary Anne Kowalski, President of Committee to Preserve the Finger Lakes, said “According to the application for the proposed facility in Schuyler County, there will be up to 22 tons of garbage held on site at any given time, which could leak PFAS into the ground. The nearly 30,000 gallons of leachate produced on site annually will be trucked to the Tompkins County Wastewater Treatment Facility. As is common with most Wastewater Treatment Facilities, Tompkins County does not have the capability of removing PFAS from the leachate before it would go into Cayuga Lake, a drinking water source for between 40,000-90,000 people depending on when students at Cornell and Ithaca College are present. There is no routine monitoring of wastewater treatment plants for PFAS, either during acceptance of the leachate or when it’s discharged back into our drinking water. Nor are there any limits set.

Until more is known about testing and control of PFAS in garbage facilities and wastewater, another new source should not be added, especially in an environmentally sensitive area with Federally Protected wetlands. For this reason alone, I urge Governor Cuomo and the DEC to deny permits for this facility.”

Brenda Lapp, resident in the Town of Newfield, witnessed the applicant violating regulations in her town when he attempted to construct a similar facility. Now, “on his new property in Cayuta, and despite warnings from DEC for over a year, the applicant’s construction activities continued until residents stepped in and reported this activity to DEC. This pattern of behavior should be of concern to the Town of Cayuta, Schuyler County, the Finger Lakes region, and even the people downstream in the Chesapeake Bay, as it indicates that Mr. Mente has a history of acting without the necessary permits and flouting regulations”, said Lapp.

Joey Gates, owner of Dish Truck, which provides durable dishes for use at events instead of disposables, said “This project will degrade our shared quality of life, our ability to sustain local agricultural/food systems and impact our tourism industry negatively. Given the DEC's mission of waste reduction, carried out through the Pollution Prevention Institute, this project is antithetical to that work and I believe that it is part of Governor Cuomo and DEC’s duty tonot allow this project to move forward.”

Jesse Beardslee, owner of Hector Handmade and Themis and Thread, whose mother runs Rasta Ranch Vineyards said, “The wine industry has experienced booming success despite the pandemic and is proof we have a unique and sustainable industry deserving of protection. So many visitors have responsibly and safely enjoyed our tranquil offerings here this year…the only sane solution is for Governor Cuomo’s DEC to deny permits for the project.”

“In recent years I returned to [Cayuta] where I grew up to be next to my father after the loss of my mother. I never expected a waste transfer station to ever be considered in our area, let alone so close to our home... those who live here rely on the NY State Officials such as the DEC… as Town of Cayuta residents, we urge Governor Cuomo to deny any permits for any new Waste Facility”, said Anne Wheeler Mace, resident of Cayuta.

“My father, Donald Phillips, owns about 3 acres bordering this proposed business site. Dad is a 90-year-old veteran who has owned, worked on, and improved his property for over 65 years. He and mom raised their family in Cayuta Township, as did many of his relatives before him. He passed to us his love and respect for the land and nature. Now that environment is being threatened. We are in a unique position to comment on this project because we are front-row observers and have already experienced some of what’s to come. There already has been an immeasurable increase in noise levels. Excavators digging, gravel being dumped into truck beds, whining hydraulics, banging dump beds, droning bulldozers, constant backup alarms, gearing down and gearing up of truck traffic on Route 13, and the slowing and accelerating of general highway traffic all intertwine. With business operations slated for 8 am-6 pm 6 days a week, we suspect this is a crystal-ball glimpse into dad’s future once the facility is up and running. I hope that Governor Cuomo’s Department of Environmental Conservation will ultimately determine the Finger Lakes region does not need a waste facility within its boundaries and denies this permit”, said Carol Peters, resident of Cayuta.

Howard Cabezas, PE and President of Cabezas Engineering of Cayuta said, “180 trucks per day moving through quaint towns and neighborhoods, many of which are dependent on tourism could be detrimental and disrupting an idyllic rural life. I am concerned of the additional traffic impact on Route 13, particularly Alpine Junction. Alpine Junction already is a dangerous intersection without the added 180 trucks per day transiting through this crossroad.

With two and a half minutes per a truck allotted for unloading and sorting material throughout a typical 8-hour day means there would be a long line of big trucks carrying dumpsters in the driveway waiting to get in. Dumpsters are notoriously not watertight, which means potential liquid waste may leak and seep on to the driveway, creating run off into the private wells of our friends and neighbors.”

Michael Lausell, Schuyler County Legislator said, “I question the economic viability of the project, particularly as it relates to the existing waste management facilities in close vicinity to the project, which are the Tompkins County Recycling and Solid Waste Center and the Casella transfer facility located in the Town of Newfield. As an individual county legislator, I urge the Governor and the DEC to deny the application of County Line MRF.”

“The Finger Lakes region remains steadfast in its endeavor to protect and preserve the area from predatory and harmful projects like the newly proposed waste transfer facility. It’s unnecessary, unwanted, and we urge Governor Cuomo to maintain his legacy of protecting our region by denying permits to this potentially environmentally and economically devastating proposal”, said Yvonne Taylor, Vice President of Seneca Lake Guardian.