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Protesters fill Seneca Falls rec center during public meeting for Seneca Meadows expansion

  • / Updated:
  • Peter Mantius 

Seneca Meadows Inc. has drafted proposed terms for a new 15-year host community agreement with the Town of Seneca Falls that could be worth more than $10 million a year.

Protesters cheered those who spoke against the landfill’s proposed expansion and jeered those who spoke in favor.

The proposal — released without notice by Town Supervisor Mike Ferrara at the end of a lengthy town board meeting last night — would be subject to the landfill receiving all necessary state permits for a proposed major expansion, which would allow the facility to operate through 2040. 

The final terms would be subject to the approval of the town board and SMI after the state completes its review of potential environmental impacts of the expansion. 

Ferrara released a draft host community agreement (HCA) and a memorandum of understanding between the landfill and the town that described their “desire to agree to terms.”

Town Board Member Steve Churchill walked out of the meeting after objecting to the fact that the tentative agreement was not on the board’s agenda, depriving the public of notice that it was going to be released.

According to a summary of the proposal Ferrara distributed, SMI would provide the town: 

— A one-time payment of $1 million upon completion of the host community agreement.

— A one-time payment of $2 million upon SMI’s receipt of all necessary permits from the state Department of Environmental Conservation to construct its proposed Valley Infill Expansion.

— Annual payments estimated at $10 million per year from the town’s $4-per-ton share of all wastes received. (Annual payments would reportedly be 4.5 times higher than the current agreement).

— An annual payment of $250,000 per year for engineering services.

The summary said the town could expect to receive $173,625,000 over the 15-year life of the proposed Valley Infill Project.

Officials from SMI and its parent company, Waste Connections, held a public hearing on the proposed expansion this morning at the Seneca Falls Community Center.

Thirty to forty protesters with signs opposing the plan stood at the back of the room and cheered members of the public who stood to speak against it and jeered the two who spoke in favor.

“Our schools in Seneca Falls and Waterloo are within two miles of the landfill,” said Valerie Sandlas of Seneca Falls. “We all smell the landfill. I know there’s no way you can guarantee that you can stop that smell. Our students have a right to smell clean air.”

R. Ken Camera, a Geneva City councilmember, said SMI should provide the community “a true benefits-costs analysis” for the landfill. “The costs side is nowhere to be found,” he said. “You’re asking people to ignore the health effects.”

The DEC is reviewing a SMI’s application for permits for the project, which calls for “approximately 47 acres of new landfill liner and approximately 144 acres of overfilling operations.” 

The expansion would allow new waste to be piled on top of the 26-acre Tantalo Inactive Hazardous Waste Site within SMI. The expansion would allow the landfill to continue operating until 2040 at current dumping rates.

The DEC has said it will require a full environmental impact statement, and it is evaluating a proposed scoping document that will define (and limit) the issues to be considered in the EIS process.

The town may not enter into an HCA until the DEC has completed its environmental review.

The summary Ferrara presented at the town board hearing last night acknowledged that odor complaints have been a major issue in the community.

“SMI will contract with an independent third-party to establish, monitor and maintain a website and an independent complaint hot-line, which will be in operation and accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for the receipt of citizen complaints regarding facility operations, including, but not limited to, odors, litter, dust, noise, truck traffic, hours of operation and water quality,” the summary said.

The document said SMI would provide four permanent ambient air monitoring stations, each with an associated weather station, continuous H2S (hydrogen sulfide) monitoring analyzer, and data collection, around the perimeter of the landfill.

The DEC has declined to say whether it intended to require the scoping document and the final environmental impact statement to include an analysis of lung cancer patterns in census tracts surrounding the landfill. 

The DOH has identified a lung cancer cluster in an area that includes the landfill for the years 2011-2015. 

WaterFront reported that DOH data also shows that lung cancer rates were higher than expected in census tracts around the landfill for both 2011-2015 and 2013-2017.

When asked, the DOH declined to provide WaterFront lung cancer statistics by Seneca County census tract for any years after 2017. 

Landfill officials have declined to comment on the DOH lung cancer data.

Kyle Black, who supervises the landfill for Waste Connections, said SMI will hold another public hearing on the expansion plan — after the DEC holds the first of its two separate public hearings on the project. Dates haven’t been scheduled.

Black said the lengthy application process needs to be completed next year if the landfill is to continue operating at its current rate. 

Last month, a state court judge invalidated a local law that would have required the landfill to close in December 2025.