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LATEST: Official calls SMI’s effort to expand landfill ‘deceptive’

The Seneca Falls Town Board is expected to learn more about a landfill expansion permit application, which was filed over the summer by Seneca Meadows Inc.

They applied to the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation to expand its landfill operation in Seneca Falls during the week of July 19th. However, local officials say they did not know about about the application until early-December.

A database check confirmed that the application was submitted around July 19th, 2020 for Seneca Meadows to modify its existing ECL Article 27/Part 360 solid waste management permit and ECL Article 19/ Title V permit for landfill air emissions and related materials.

It’s a process that would require additional meetings and public input before final approval is granted, but the start of the process caught a lot of people by surprise.

Seneca Meadows’ Kyle Black confirmed that the company had filed an application with the DEC to continue operations – utilizing the middle area of the landfill’s existing footprint. “This application for the ‘The Valley Infill’ meets or exceeds all of the numerous, and very stringent, Federal and State environmental regulations,” Black said Tuesday evening in an email. “We look forward to partnering with NYSDEC to ensure we meet or exceed the expectations of all of our stakeholders.”

If approved and constructed, the 50-acre expansion would yield an additional 15 years of operational space at Seneca Meadows’ current fill rate.

Councilman Steve Churchill voiced concerns about the prospect of Seneca Meadows seeking additional operating years through its permit. It runs contrary to a local law on the books now, which prevents landfills from operating beyond December 2025. “It reeks of total disregard for Local Law 3,” Churchill wrote, “but it’s certainly not a surprise.”

“Kyle’s assertion that this expansion, while not increasing the facility’s footprint is the best way to go is deceptive,” Councilman Doug Avery said on Wednesday. “While filling in the valley keeps the garbage pile mostly out of sight, one only has to look at the numbers to determine the impact.  The host Community Agreement currently in place has allowed for roughly 28.5 million tons of garbage since it was signed in 2007.  The additional fifteen years of operating capacity they have requested would more than double that…another 33 million tons of someone else’s garbage being dumped on our community.  Whether it is visible or not, that is completely unacceptable”

Supervisor Mike Ferrara said in an email that he was unaware that the landfill had officially applied to the DEC to expand. The Town Board has been repeatedly tabling an operating permit, which some had thought could be acted on in early-2021. As for concerns about this application interfering with Local Law 3, Ferrara said he’s not worried at this point. “I do not have a concern. Like any other business, SMI, I assume, is preparing for their future in Seneca Falls,” he added. “I have no idea what their legal approach will be if Local law 3 is still in effect come 2025.”

Black contends that expanding this way does so without increasing the landfill’s footprint. “Continuing the landfill in this manner without increasing the footprint, and while minimizing the operational area, will allow SMI to continue essential operations in the most environmentally conscious and safest manner,” he added. “It will also allow us to continue supporting numerous charitable organizations, help fund first responders, local parks and libraries, and hold the line on local property taxes within the community, with more than $250,000 in annual donations and $4.5 million per year in host fees and taxes paid.  This important step also enables us to remain one of the region’s largest employers, with our team of over 100 proud employees continuing to be a big part of what makes our area special.”

Councilman Churchill said that he expects the matter to come up for discussion, or lead to possible Board action at their next meeting. However, Supervisor Ferrara said that without lacking specifics it’s hard to say what would come up. “My understanding is that SMI will be petitioning the Board in February about this project.”

Speaking to the prospect of community response as the process plays out, Avery says it should be significant. “I would expect that reaction to be robust. The very soul of our community is at stake,” he added.

Editor’s Note: We reached out to the entire Town Board for comment. This story will continue to be updated as responses are received.

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