Dear Seneca Falls (and surrounding area) community members,
I fully support the immediate enactment of your local law No. 7 for the following reasons:
My peer-reviewed research clearly establishes a connection between chronic exposure to low levels of fugitive toxic emissions (volatile gases and airborne particulates) from hazardous waste sites and increased rates of heart disease, hypertension, COPD, asthma, diabetes, birth defects, infertility, and other chronic and acute diseases in people living near those sites.
It doesn’t matter that Seneca Meadows officials claim that their facility poses no threat to public health and the environment because they are a MSW landfill in compliance with federal and state regulatory standards, as the way in which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classifies a solid waste as a “hazardous waste” or a “non-hazardous waste” allows substantial amounts of hazardous and otherwise deleterious chemicals to be legally placed in MSW landfills.
Notably, Table 2a in Seneca Meadows’ 2009 Annual Report lists more than 120,000 tons of ash, 400,000 tons of construction and demolition debris, 100,000 tons of contaminated soil, 40,000 tons of sludge, and 35,000 tons of “other industrial waste” that were received that year.
Of course, regular household waste often includes paint, solvents, cleaners, oils, pesticides, drugs, batteries, florescent light bulbs, and electronic products, which also contribute to the toxic contaminants in MSW landfills, and these are not counted.
All of this translates into inventory emissions of almost 92 tons of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and 1.65 tons of HAPS (hazardous air pollutants) that Seneca Meadows pumped into the air of surrounding communities in just calendar year 2013 alone (numbers provided by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation) — an enormous amount.
Furthermore, neither the EPA nor the DEC evaluates additive exposure risks (i.e., continuous low-dose or “below threshold” exposures over time) of these chemicals, which are of special concern when it comes to chemicals that persist in the environment and/or accumulate in body fat.
And little regulatory consideration is given to the impact of chronic, low level chemical exposure on the health of those most vulnerable — such as children, pregnant women, those already sick, and the elderly.
In addition, since:
• Almost half of world deaths before the age of 65 can be attributed to various environmental factors, especially organic and chemical pollutants of the kind produced by landfills,
• Most of these pollutants have never been screened to learn whether they cause cancer or other harm (endocrine, nervous, reproductive, immune),
• Only a fraction of possibly thousands of chemicals that leach from what is dumped in Seneca Meadows Landfill have ever been tested for their human toxicity (though they’re escaping 24 hours a day, 7 days a week),
• Seneca Meadow Landfill, if like other NYS MSW landfills, largely self-reports its levels of pollution (i.e., takes its own measurements of VOCs and HAPs),
• Seneca Meadow’s landfill, if like other MSW landfills in NYS, is not required to report or even monitor its most dangerous air pollution emissions, radiation and dioxin,
• and since Seneca Meadows landfill does not, as I understand, have any appreciable buffer areas between them and residential communities to protect residents from their poisonous gases,
I recommend an immediate and full-scale epidemiological assessment be done in the local area to assess the levels of adverse health effects of these chemicals, particularly among the elderly, pregnant women, children and infants.
I also recommend an immediate and full-scale inquiry to determine the answer as to who will protect public health, air and groundwater quality beyond the 30-year period that the current owner is responsible for, considering that the wastes in the landfill will be a threat to generate leachate and toxic gas effectively FOREVER.
In the meantime, and in lieu of independent performance of each of the above assessments, and a satisfactory response obtained from both, I do wholeheartedly support the immediate enactment of local law No. 7.
My credentials for saying so are that I have spent most of my career in studying environmental contaminants and public health. I am a Professor of Environmental Health Sciences and former Dean at the University at Albany School of Public Health and am presently the Director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University of Albany. In 2010, I received the prestigious Albion O. Bernstein, M.D. Award from the Medical Society of the State of New York for outstanding contributions to medicine and disease prevention.
David O. Carpenter is a public health physician who serves as director of the Institute for Health and the Environment, a Collaborating Center of the World Health Organization, as well as a professor of environmental health sciences at the University at Albany’s School of Public Health. He previously served as director of the Wadsworth Center of the New York State Department of Health, and as dean of the University at Albany School of Public Health. Carpenter, who received his medical degree from Harvard Medical School, has more than 370 peer-reviewed publications, six books and 50 reviews and book chapters to his credit.