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Residents point to unknown in landfill odors as SF Town Board tables local permit again by 5-0 vote

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  • Staff Report 

For the fourth consecutive month, the Seneca Falls Town Board has postponed its decision on granting a permit to Seneca Meadows Inc. due to persistent complaints about odors.

The unanimous vote took place without discussion, echoing similar decisions made in January, February, and March. Despite not requiring a town permit to operate, thanks to a state permit valid until 2025, SMI is seeking to extend its operations until 2040.

Local businesses and residents have raised concerns about the landfill’s odors affecting the area. Mark Pitifer, representing Waterloo Container, highlighted the ongoing odor issues at a recent Town Board meeting, noting their detrimental impact on the community and local businesses.

“Odor issues from SMI still remain a problem for Waterloo Container. We need this board to have Seneca Meadows mitigate the problems that they have created,” Pitifer said. “Since we last spoke to this board, the odors from the SMI Landfill have only continued to be a problem for area businesses and residents.”

He called on the Town Board to deny Seneca Meadows its operating permit due to violations of town code.

“Waterloo Container along with some of the other largest employers in your town and county implore this board to hold SMI to a greater level of accountability and use your authority and power given to you,” Pitifer continued. “It is your duty to enforce the town codes and the host agreement, and make SMI Comply. It is your duty to uphold your codes. All of this should be done to protect the health, safety, and wellbeing of your residents.”

He pointed to the unknowns around what’s in the air when odors are significant. “When there is a bad odor, we are the first ones hit. It is often unknown what is in the odorous air we are breathing from the landfill, so we look to the experts,” Pitifer added.

He cited information from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, which states, “Landfill gas odors are produced by bacterial or chemical processes and can emanate from both active or closed landfills. These odors can migrate to the surrounding community. Potential sources of landfill odors include sulfides, ammonia, and certain NMOCs. Landfill odors contain Hydrogen Sulfide, Ammonia Benzene, Dichloroethylene, Ethylbenzene, Toluene, Trichloroethylene, Tetrachloroethylene, and Vinyl Chloride to name a few.” Like many others who have spoken out about the issue of odors created by Seneca Meadows, Trichloroethylene is a substance listed as an emission from the landfill, per its own annual reports.

“A recent analysis of available epidemiological studies reports trichloroethylene exposure to be associated with several types of cancers in humans, especially kidney, liver, cervix, and lymphatic system. Animal studies have reported increases in lung, liver, kidney, and testicular tumors and lymphoma,” the Registry states.

Pitifer said the Town Board should be using science to guide its decision making.

“Enough is enough. Stop being blinded by Public Relations and financial campaigns. Please, uphold your town codes, hold this business accountable and protect the health, safety, and wellbeing of your residents,” he concluded.