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Finger Lakes Zero Waste: FEIS process ‘poor’

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Posted: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 1:44 pm

SENECA — Finger Lakes Zero Waste Coalition and homeowner Katherine Bennett Roll have filed sharply critical comments on the Final Environmental Impact Statement tied to the proposed Ontario County Landfill expansion.

Barton & Loguidice Engineers prepared the FEIS on behalf of the county and landfill operator Casella Waste Services. The county and Casella want to expand trash deposits into a new, 43.5-acre section of the existing, 389-acre landfill. In addition, Casella hopes to acquire 40 acres to the south of the landfill for use as a soil-borrow area.

“It is generally clear from the responses to comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement that Ontario County has made a poor effort to review environmental impacts expected from this project, along with not balancing social and economic considerations, as required by the State Environmental Quality Review Act,” stated Douglas Knipple, president of Finger Lakes Zero Waste.

In comments directed at County Administrator John Garvey, Knipple charged that the SEQRA process “has been seriously subverted.” He said it is “beyond the scope of time” to accurately narrate the deficiencies in the FEIS. He argued that so many questions have not been answered that a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement should be ordered.

One of FL Zero Waste’s objections is that the review process has been segmented and not considered as a whole.

“Since neither the DEIS nor the FEIS has reviewed this project in conjunction with an approved Ontario County Solid Waste Management Plan or the Landfill Master Plan, this project review has violated SEQRA regulations and has been segmented, which is impermissible,” Knipple wrote.

A summary of Zero Waste’s other FEIS criticisms:

• The FEIS states that because no other developments are proposed in the vicinity of the landfill “cumulative impacts to the surrounding community within the project area will not occur.”

That statement was challenged.

“This is an inappropriate conclusion given the master plan for future site development that is currently underway and mentioned in the DEIS,” he wrote. “The proposed landfill expansion should be coordinated with and reviewed in the context of this master plan.”

• Finger Lakes Zero Waste stands by its argument that common control of the landfill and the gas-to-energy facility on the landfill site should not be allowed.

“We consider the DEC policy that allows air emissions of landfills and adjacent landfill gas-to-energy facilities to be separately regulated misguided and a clear case of impermissible segmentation under SEQRA,” Knipple wrote. “We await comment from the Environmental Protection Agency Air Program branch on this matter.”

• The county has failed to review significant environmental effects related to noise.

Knipple said data that would confirm that noise requirements can be met was omitted in the DEIS and FEIS on purpose, essentially to circumvent the public-review process. Submission of that data after the SEQRA process is over does not provide for public review, another reason Finger Lakes Zero Waste wants an SEIS.

Finger Lakes Zero Waste concluded that the FEIS substantively fails to meet the requirements of the state code.

Roll, who lives near the landfill on Number Nine Road and is an active member of Zero Waste, criticized the FEIS on several fronts. A summary:

ODOR CONTROL: No mitigation is proposed, she said. If the odors cannot be mitigated, the expansion cannot go forward.

“It’s as simple as that,” she said. “How many lives need to be ruined for the people of Rockland County having somewhere to throw their garbage? Since I cannot enjoy my property when there is excessive noise and odor, the landfill is out of compliance.”

DUST CONTROL: Roll called the procedure described for dust control “laughable.” She said the scientific material on particulate matter and its harm to public health is voluminous.

“There is no plan here,” she charged. “There is no responsibility. There is no concern for the public, only for the bottom line.”

GROUNDWATER: Roll said the landfill stated it would follow up on people with potable water wells within a quarter-mile to a mile of the landfill.

“No one ever contacted me about my well, which I drink from, bathe in and do laundry with,” she noted. “I have notified you several times. You have never answered my questions about my water usage.”

NOISE: She said the FEIS indicates the expansion will meet noise requirements via the landfill obtaining easements from developed properties. Roll said she doesn’t believe the landfill has all the easements needed and failed to submit the required noise information requested by DEC.

SEGMENTATION: Roll echoed Finger Lakes Zero Waste’s comments on expansion not being reviewed in context with the Solid Waste Management Plan or a Landfill Master Plan.

OTHERS: Roll said the SEQRA process has been violated by the FEIS, leading her to conclude that state codes and regulations have not been met, the landfill expansion does not avoid or minimize the adverse environmental impacts to the maximum extent practicable and does not achieve a balance between protection of the environment and the need to accommodate social and economic considerations.

The town of Seneca also filed comments critical of the FEIS. The town’s response was prepared by a consulting law firm and engineering outfit hired by the town.

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