How does the Town of Colonie get away with accepting more garbage than the law allows without being penalized? It’s simple — partner with a private company to run the landfill.
When the state Department of Environmental Conservation levied a $530,000 fine on the Town of Colonie Landfill last month for accepting too much trash in 2014, Waste Connections — the Texas-based company that runs the landfill — reimbursed the town for the amount. In essence, the town didn’t have to pay a single cent.
It’s a convenient arrangement. The town landfill accepts nearly double the amount of waste it’s allowed by state law, and a multi million-dollar corporation foots the bill.
What’s more, the town never specified how much additional waste the landfill could accept. So while the landfill took in less than the amount of regular solid waste allowed in 2014, the amount of alternate daily cover (ADC) taken in was so great, the DEC couldn’t ignore it.
Town Supervisor Paula Mahan, who is running for re-election this year, claimed that landfills “occasionally face a fine for this or that.” While that may be true, there is an environmental impact that isn’t being considered. Too much trash creates health and quality-of-life issues for those living near landfills. It’s one of the reasons why recycling has become a big part of everyday life in the United States. Reduce the amount of trash by reusing what can be recycled, and you have a cleaner environment.
By not specifying an ADC limit in the permit, the town decided it didn’t care about how much trash the landfill took in. All that the town wanted was a private company — in this case, a corporation on the other side of the country — to run the landfill, thus giving the town not only a scapegoat, but also one that would pay the town to operate it. In fact, the town has turned a nice profit on the landfill, bringing in $38 million since it was privatized in 2011.
However, the town needs to be held responsible for what was going on at the landfill last year and told to set ADC limits in its next permit to Waste Connections, so this sort of thing doesn’t happen again. The town can’t pass the buck to the DEC to set the limit — something Mahan suggested when she said, “If the DEC wants them to take in less, then that’s what they’ll do.” The town created the contract, and it created the permit. So, it needs to create the ADC limits, too.
The town may not have had to pay the landfill’s fine, but it can’t be allowed to wash its hands clean of the situation either. Set ADC limits and enforce them, so this doesn’t happen again.