August 24, 2011
Law worries waste haulers
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Waste hauler Dennis Musson talks Tuesday about his concerns collecting recyclables that are not properly bagged, while attending a meeting of the Cortland County Legislature’s Highway Committee. The committee held a special meeting at the County Office Building’s auditorium to gather comments from haulers about a proposed law governing recycling and solid waste.
Trash haulers faulted Cortland County’s proposal to allow outside trash and impose restrictions like requiring that trash be disposed of in clear plastic bags, during a special meeting Tuesday of the county Legislature’s Highway Committee.
The county is considering changing the local law to allow outside trash and Beneficial Use Determinant materials. These are waste materials that the state Department of Environmental Conservation approves for use as cover at the landfill. The proposed changes are the county’s attempt to stem the loss of approximately $750,000 annually between operations and debt at both the landfill and the recycling center.
But haulers and legislators alike did not agree on the solution Tuesday.
Dennis Musson, owner of Sav-A-Lot trash hauling, said it would be impossible to enforce the law requiring trash be disposed of in clear plastic bags.
Musson and other haulers said inviting outside trash would force small trash collectors out of business or force them to move elsewhere.
“I wish they’d make it fair to everyone,” Musson said after the meeting.
Lesa Williams, co-owner of Cortland Sanitation, said that flow control — a law requiring all trash generated in the county be disposed of at the county landfill — may be the only option.
“If that’s what we have to do for the county. The only reason I support flow control is because of what they want to do now,” Williams said.
Williams said she does not want outside trash because there is no assurance of what would be deposited in the landfill. Williams fears water contamination, since her property abuts the landfill.
But flow control is not an option in the proposed local law.
Highway Committee Chairman Dave Fuller (R-Cincinnatus, Taylor, Freetown and Willet) said it could be considered in the future but he is opposed to flow control because it prevents free enterprise.
“Flow control is an interference with free enterprise. Flow control is not going to help local haulers because it will bring big haulers in who will take away the routes,” he said.
Fuller said the meeting, intended to get the local haulers’ input on the proposed local law, did not accomplish its goal.
“The haulers weren’t addressing the law,” Fuller said. “They don’t want outside trash or BUD but they want no change. We’ve got to do something.”
Legislator John Troy (D-1st Ward) said he feels full discussion about all options at the landfill is not being allowed.
“I’m not in favor of flow control but I don’t think the Legislature has had debate on whether that is an alternative that could be used,” Troy said.
He said more discussion is needed on the possible savings that a flow control law could generate.
According to his figures, Troy projects the county could see a net gain of $770,000 annually by enacting a flow control law and raising the tipping fee to $70 a ton. Troy thinks this option may be more feasible than inviting outside trash to be dumped at the landfill because he does not think enough outside trash will be brought into the county with the current tipping fee of $60. That would mean lowering the tipping fee. Troy predicts drawing about 40,000 tons of outside trash with a tipping fee of $35 but that would still leave the county with a net loss of $410,000, even with about $80,000 in BUD materials.
Troy wants the issue to be explored further.
“I would like there to be further debate,” Troy said. “There has not been full debate in the Legislature or the Highway Committee, it’s been prevented for some reason.”
Fuller said he needs to tweak the wording of the local law to address the issue of who would identify what BUD materials would be accepted. Fuller also wants to determine if a sliding scale rate would be beneficial to include in the law. This is a method of adjusting the tipping fee for certain haulers, depending on the amount they dump.
Fuller hopes the law can be adopted by October. A public hearing on the law must be held first and the county must complete an abbreviated version of a state environmental quality review form.
Resident Michael Barylski, a former permit administrator for the DEC, said he fears the proposed changes are shortsighted.
“I’d hate to see the landfill become a long-term problem because of a shortened useful life,” Barylski said, pointing to the fact that as the landfill fills up faster, the county would have less time to fill the available sections of the landfill, known as cells. Then the county would be faced with the decision of what to do with future trash sooner than expected and could still have debt to pay off on the cells that would then be full.
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