#LetterToTheEditor #YourVoice #SpotlightNews
I read Jim Franco’s article about the Town of Colonie landfill. For many years I have reviewed Colonie’s landfill documents at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Region 4 Headquarters. These documents illustrate the numerous problems at the landfill that have occurred since 2011 when a private firm was hired to operate the facility. Prior to that time the facility was operated by Town of Colonie public employees managers and by members of the Civil Service Employees Association. This “profit motivated landfill operation” which was implemented in 2011 has created a lot of revenues. At the same time it has done permanent damage to the environment in Colonie.
The Town of Colonie implemented an innovative recycling plan during the 1990s. One of the benefits of the recycling plan was to help the environment by saving space at the Town of Colonie landfill. This program was working fine until the Town of Colonie decided to transfer the operations of the facility to a private corporation in 2011. After the landfill operations were privatized in 2011, a Town of Colonie official publicly stated there were no plans to increase the size of the landfill. The situation changed quickly. During the 2012-13 period the Town of Colonie proposed to dramatically increase the amount of material entering the landfill from 170,500 tons per year to 255,840 tons per year. In 2013 the Town of Colonie landfill had enough space to run the facility until 2021 if it did not expand the yearly refuse intake to 255,840 tons. This was a firm indication that the recycling plan was working. Unfortunately, the DEC approved the plan and the landfill was quickly filled up.
During 2016 the Town of Colonie filed another application with the DEC to extend the landfill’s life even further. The DEC issued a decision in 2018 which allowed for part of the expansion. Unfortunately the Colonie landfill had a lot more refuse in it due to the unfortunate policy of increasing the yearly tonnage to 255,840 tons. Many of the environmental benefits provided by Colonie’s residents and businesses in saving landfill space for the past 25 years were essentially reduced. The saved landfill space from the recycling program was used up by other entities outside of Colonie who shipped refuse to the facility. These included Capital District area local governments, downstate governments, and other out-of-state entities who were allowed to ship material to the landfill simply to increase the profits at the facility.
The Town of Colonie landfill was a well-run operation in 2011 and the CSEA and other public employees did and exceptional job. This changed in 2011 when the landfill operation was transferred to a private entity. The profit motive took over and during the past several years the landfill has been fined hundreds of thousands of dollars by the DEC due to managerial problems at the facility.
Documents at DEC files show some operations at the landfill were shut down over the years. The DEC halted the yard composting recycling program at the facility due to mismanagement and that program had to be moved to another facility. The electric power plant was even shut down for a time due to unsolved water runoff problems. Employees of the privatized facility even cut a hole in the protective liner at the facility and the corrective action to fix it was problematic. Odor problems, leakage of metals into the environment, and other waste related problems are often shown to occur in the documents maintained by the DEC. Unfortunately, corporate greed and a series of bad decisions made by the Town of Colonie officials has left us in this undesirable situation.
Kevin M. Bronner, Ph.D.