Until June 29, the Department of Environmental Conservation is accepting public comments on the Draft Solid Waste Management Proposal. We need YOU to submit a comment. Scroll down for an easy sample comment to copy and paste along with the email address to send it to.
The plan is meant to be a roadmap to minimize waste and promote a zero waste, circular economy. If adopted, the plan is good for New York, communities, the environment, and the economy.
But the Department must recognize that the continued operation of the State’s largest landfill, Seneca Meadows, is unequivocally at odds with the plan’s goals and that those goals are merely paper tigers if the DEC allows the expansion and continued operation of this landfill.
Seneca Meadows already stands at nearly 30 stories tall and is permitted to accept 6,000 tons of trash per day - and was slated to close in 2025.
But now, Waste Connections – the landfill’s Texas-based, for profit operator – has applied with the DEC to expand their footprint by another 47 acres wider and seven stories taller, and extend their operation through 2040.
Creating more space for garbage is completely at odds with what the Draft Plan sets out to achieve –and any meaningful waste reduction strategy must include denying Seneca Meadows’ expansion and closing the landfill.
Whether or not Seneca Meadows stays open is an issue that impacts the whole state.
This landfill hauls millions of gallons of leachate – containing toxic forever chemicals called PFAS – to Buffalo, Watertown, Chittenango, and Steuben County. These localities don’t have the mechanism for removing the PFAS before it goes into their waterways and drinking water sources.
On top of that, the landfill is hindering New York from achieving the goals of New York’s bold Climate Law. Seneca Meadows produces a billion cubic feet of fugitive emissions, including methane, every year- a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. New York’s waste sector accounts for 12 percent of our state’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Less than 1% of the trash in Seneca Meadows originates in Seneca County. We know from Seneca Meadows’ 2022 annual report that 30% of the waste in the landfill is trash from New York City, and 16% comes from out of state.
New York City is stepping up to divert waste from the landfill. On June 8th, the Council passed the Zero Waste Act to codify the goal of diverting 100% of recyclables and organic waste from landfills and incinerators. The zero waste act also creates a citywide, residential curbside organics collections program. Driving down organics in landfills is critical to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The solutions are already identified within the solid waste plan and are completely within New York State’s control. Closing Seneca Meadows by 2025 will help NY implement a zero waste, circular economy and is fully consistent with the state’s plan.
We need the state to step up and include closing Seneca Meadows by 2025 in its solid waste management plan.
SEND EMAIL TO: NYSSolidWastePlan@dec.ny.gov
SAMPLE COMMENT (COPY, PASTE, AND INDIVIDUALIZE WHEREVER YOU
SEE BOLD HIGHLIGHT, THEN SEND):
VIA EMAIL: NYSSolidWastePlan@dec.ny.gov
Hon. Basil M. Seggos, Commissioner
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
Albany, New York 12233
Re: Comments to Draft New York State Solid Waste Management Plan
Dear Commissioner Seggos:
I am commenting on New York State’s Draft Solid Waste Management Proposal (DSWMP) as a [resident/ avid tourist/ property owner/ other] in the Finger Lakes region, where we host New York State’s largest landfill, Seneca Meadows Landfill Inc. (SMI), and receive over 50% of New York’s garbage.
I am gravely concerned about the many adverse environmental, social, and economic impacts from solid waste disposal at SMI located in Seneca County. Add your personal comments about your experience with the landfill here: odors, visual blight, PFAS contamination concerns, economic issues, impact on tourism, air quality, impact on climate etc.methane emissions, etc.
While the DSWMP identifies laudable goals and solutions, the Department must recognize that the continued operation of SMI is unequivocally at odds with the plan. The DSWMP recognizes that:
• Disadvantaged Communities face a disproportionate share of the state’s solid waste disposal burden;
• New York already has the authority and ability to implement better solutions;
• Waste is managed at a local and not state level;
• New Yorkers need better enforcement of existing law to protect them from the adverse impacts of solid waste management decisions;
• Sustainable materials management is good for New York, communities, the environment, and the economy; and
• To achieve the emissions reductions required by the CLCP, New York must significantly increase solid waste diversion from landfills; monitor emissions and reduce leakage.
These goals are merely paper tigers if the Department does not prevent the expansion and continued operation of SMI.
The DSWMP also demonstrates that two DACs in particular, Seneca Falls and Waterloo, already shoulder a grossly disproportionate share of that burden because of SMI, which receives waste from every region of the state, several other states, and Canada. SMI is currently seeking approval from the Department to allow operations to continue beyond the existing closure date of December 31, 2025 and adversely impact Seneca Falls and Waterloo until 2040, which would be contrary to DSWMP’s goal of building a circular economy, a more resilient supply chain, and a less wasteful future. It is critical that you accelerate the transition to a circular economy, and I urge you to begin by denying SMI’s proposed expansion and extension.
Therefore the permitting of new or expanded Solid Waste Management Facilities should be the lowest of the Department’s priorities. This must include SMI’s proposed expansion. To successfully develop and implement a circular economy and relieve DACs of their disproportionate burden as the DSWMP proposes, landfill capacity in the state must be restricted. The DSWMP “is intended to guide actions over the next decade, from the beginning of 2023 to the end of 2032”. However, if the Department were to approve the pending application to modify SMI’s Part 360 permit for the “Valley Infill” project, low-cost landfill capacity will remain available at the state’s largest active landfill until 2040, eight years longer than the term of the DSWMP. This would directly undermine efforts to implement a circular economy and work directly against the stated goals and objectives of the DSWMP.
It recommends the Department “Develop policy to implement the requirement in Part 360 that mandates that solid waste management facilities (SWMFs) effectively control nuisance odor.” The Department’s files are chock full of evidence establishing SMI and numerous other landfills in the state routinely violate their Part 360 permits and 6 NYCRR § 211.1 by causing emissions which unreasonably interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property. Odor Investigation Checklists obtained from the Department confirm that from February of 2018 through November of 2021, SMI employees responded to and confirmed citizen odor complaints approximately 452 times. So even after the Department modified SMI’s Part 360 Permit in 2017 to include 7 new special conditions intended to control the nuisance odors from SMI’s waste disposal operations, SMI has continued on a regular basis to emit odors which unreasonably interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of life and property by Seneca Falls and Waterloo residents, schools, houses of worship, and businesses. On numerous occasions (e.g., July 1, 2020; July 13, 2020; July 22, 2020; and March 19, 2021) the Department’s On-Site Monitor at SMI indicated on Daily Inspection Reports that item #8 pertaining to odors was “NI” or not inspected, when on those very same dates SMI’s employees were busy confirming citizen odor complaints in Seneca Falls and Waterloo. This demonstrates the Department’s on-site monitor is ineffectual, even misleading, when it comes to controlling nuisance odors at SMI. Notwithstanding the overwhelming evidence in the Department’s files that SMI causes nuisance odors as a matter of course, the Department has never even issued a Notice of Violation to SMI in connection with odor. In 2018 the Department issued a Notice of Violation for nuisance odors to High Acres landfill in Perinton and Macedon, New York. The communities of Seneca Falls and Waterloo surrounding SMI are DACs, whereas the more affluent communities of Perinton and Macedon surrounding High Acres landfill are not. That glaring disparity in enforcement underscores just one of the many ways DACs shoulder a disproportionate share of the state’s waste disposal burden. Environmental Conservation Law Article 71 already provides the Department with jurisdiction and authority to enforce 6 NYCRR § 211.1 and odor conditions in Part 360 permits. Why the Department refuses to exercise its jurisdiction and authority to curtail ongoing nuisance odors from SMI very much perplexes and confounds the good people of Seneca Falls and Waterloo.
Zero Waste programs can create jobs in our communities—whether we’re in a large or small, urban or rural area. And, Zero Waste programs strengthen our economy by keeping dollars and materials circulating through our region. Programs that reuse, repair, recycle, and compost materials create more jobs than landfills and incinerators per ton of materials handled:
• Recycling creates an average of nine times more jobs than trash
• Composting creates at least twice as many jobs as landfills and four times as many jobs as incineration facilities.
• Reuse creates as many as 30 times more jobs than landfills.
On a national level, the US recycling industry generates $117 billion in economic activity annually. According to the EPA’s 2020 Recycling Economic Information (REI) Report, recycling and reuse activities in the United States accounted for:
• 681,000 jobs;
• $37.8 billion in wages; and
• $5.5 billion in tax revenues
This equates to 1.17 jobs for every 1,000 tons of materials recycled. In the Finger Lakes, where our driving economic engine is agriculture and tourism that supports 60,000 jobs and generates $3 Billion in annual state revenue, not only would these jobs be more consistent with our community character, but closing SMI and moving toward this system would also help more sustainable businesses that are already established be able to recruit and retain employees who otherwise pass on jobs that would mean raising a family near an expanding landfill.
SMI produces 70 Million gallons of leachate annually, of which only 1/5th is treated using a reverse osmosis system. The rest is trucked across the state to wastewater treatment facilities which do not have the capacity for removing PFAS before it is discharged into our waterways and drinking water resources. Since New York is concerned about and working to address these emerging contaminants, it is critical that it close SMI- a huge source of these cancer-causing chemicals.
The Waste Sector is a sizable contributor to GHG emissions. Responsible for 12% of statewide GHG emissions, the Waste Sector is behind Buildings (32%), Transportation (28%), and very close to Electricity (13%). 2019’s New York GHG emissions by CLCPA Scoping Plan sector, “The Waste Sector”, includes emissions primarily associated with landfills, waste combustion, and wastewater management. Of the total Waste Sector contribution, landfills account for 78%, waste combustion accounts for 7%, and wastewater treatment accounts for 15%. Most of these emissions represent the long-term decay of organic materials buried in a landfill, which will continue to emit methane at a significant rate for more than 30 years.
SMI produces a billion cubic feet of fugitive emissions, including methane, every year- a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Permitting this landfill to expand and operate for another 15 years is in violation of our CLCPA law, as it will undermine our state goals for reducing GHGs.
The Scoping Plan calls for an even more “dramatic shift in the way waste is managed” by 2050; that landfills only be used sparingly for specific waste streams; that reduction and recycling are robust and ubiquitous; and that the circular economy approach for materials management is fully implemented and embraced. Any Solid Waste Management Plan adopted by the state would be worth less than the paper it’s written on if it allows the state’s largest landfill to expand and continue operating through 2040.
It has been over a decade since the DEC’s last ten year plan. Since then, we have passed many major thresholds. For one, a January 2022 international report found the world is beyond the toxic tipping point. This scientific study, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, found that "the total mass of plastics now exceeds the total mass of all living mammals," a clear indication that we've crossed a boundary. Secondly, plastic production is highly polluting. Over 99% of plastics are sourced from fossil fuels; the most common source in the United States is fossil gas. The solid waste industry accounts for an estimated 12% of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. Thirdly, plastic production is showing no signs of slowing down. Since 1950, there has been a fifty-fold increase in plastic production. This number is expected to triple by 2050 while microplastics are already being found in human blood and breastmilk, and PFAS are reported to be increasingly more present in samples of rainwater.
In order for New York to adequately address recycling policy and producer responsibility, fight climate change, and combat our waste crisis, it is essential that we start with the state’s largest landfill as a gesture that our state’s Solid Waste Management Plan is genuine and its goals are adequately addressed.
I support the implementation of a circular economy, reduced reliance on landfilling in New York, enforcement of nuisance odor violations, and the closure of SMI on December 31, 2025.
Thank you for the opportunity to submit these comments to the DWMP.