April 11, 2012


State adding to landfill costs

Proposed rules would require additional equipment, monitoring

LandfillBob Ellis/staff photographer
A packer rolls over garbage April 4 at the Cortland County Landfill. Legislators are trying to find ways to cut down on annual deficits at the landfill. New regulations proposed by the state Department of Environmental Conservation would make running it more expensive.

Staff Reporter

Proposed state revisions to landfill regulations would increase future costs of running the county landfill at time when legislators are struggling to trim a roughly $200,000 annual operating deficit.
The county could be required to implement gas collection infrastructure, radiation detectors, ensure processing of construction and demolition debris and increase its financial reporting, Highway Superintendent Don Chambers said Tuesday at the first meeting of the county’s Solid Waste Committee.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation is revising its solid waste management plan.
The state plans to have a public hearing on the changes in October and implement them next year. Chambers urged legislators to give feedback when public comment will be accepted on the document.
Legislator John Troy (D-1st Ward), who chairs the newly formed committee, said the only way the committee can fail is if it does not come to any recommendation with regards to the county landfill. The landfill and the recycling center are estimated to lose about $400,000 this year between operations and debt, and Troy said the committee must come to some resolution on how to cut this down.
Combined with the impending change to state regulations, Troy said, maintaining the status quo in the county’s solid waste operations would be too costly.
Last year the Legislature voted down a proposal to accept outside trash from contiguous counties and Beneficial Use Determinant materials, which are state-approved materials that can be used as fill at the landfill. The committee will be once more trying to decide the best solution.
Chambers said he could not put a figure on how much the revised regulations would cost the county. Committee members estimated just implementing a gas collection mechanism for cells at the landfill would run upwards of $1 million.
Radiation detectors would cost $70,000 with an additional $7,000 per handheld unit. Each load coming into the landfill would have to be scanned, taking up time for haulers. Those figures were provided by the DEC, said Chambers.
If a load tests positive for radioactive material, then it would have to be analyzed to determine the particular radioactive isotope, said Chambers, and dealt with accordingly. The county would have to provide for disposal of the radioactive material, for example at a medical facility, perhaps.
Chambers said a landfill about the same size as Cortland County’s, reported about four instances of radioactive material being dumped in the landfill and medical waste was typically the source. It was commonly from soiled undergarments after someone had been released from the hospital having undergone a surgical procedure.
The only instances of radioactive materials being illegally dumped in a landfill in the state were an old X-ray machine and a soil compaction device, Chambers said.
The new regulations might also require the county to ensure that closure of the landfill is financially accounted for.
Chambers said the proposed changes could very well go through despite the financial burden they would bring to counties.
The nine changes he outlined were taken from “Beyond Waste,” a document that governs the direction the DEC wants to move with solid waste management.
“They set the parameters that we operate under. They are the regulatory agency. And when you review this document, ‘Beyond Waste,’ it is clear what their intentions are,” Chambers said.
The committee took no action but each member introduced his or her goals, including making the landfill more customer friendly and determining what would encourage large producers of trash in the county to use the landfill. It will meet again next month.


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