October 9, 2013
County: Ash-trash deal transparent
Officials plan to meet with towns, city to boost dialogue about project
As Cortland County prepares to proceed with environmental studies required to accept Onondaga County incinerator ash at the landfill, officials are trying to allay fears about the contents of the ash and ensure the process will be transparent.
The Solid Waste Committee discussed the proposal on Tuesday. Last month the Legislature approved beginning State Environmental Quality Review studies for the project.
The county’s Syracuse-based engineers Barton and Loguidice will start those studies once Legislature Chair Mike Park (R-Homer) signs the contract, which is still being reviewed by the county attorney’s office.
The contents of the ash, meanwhile, will be studied by an independent laboratory to determine if its composition is safe, says Highway Department Superintendent Don Chambers. Those results should be available in coming weeks, though the testing is done randomly so an exact date was not announced.
Chambers said the lab will expand the testing for parameters beyond what the state Department of Environmental Conservation requires, providing a higher level of assurance the ash is safe.
The county is simultaneously going through a required update of its landfill permit to allow the county to accept up to 44,500 tons of trash yearly. This permit expires in 2014.
It must be updated anyway, though the fact it is being undertaken at the same time the county is discussing changing its landfill to allow ash is being looked at with distrust by some members of the public.
Cortlandville resident Pam Jenkins spoke at the meeting, faulting the proposed ash-for-trash deal for being undertaken in a secret manner.
Chambers assured Jenkins and Cortlandville Legislator Susan Briggs that the permit update is separate and distinct from the permit change that will be required to convert the landfill to an ash monofill site.
That permit change will require SEQR studies and will have a series of public hearings, Chambers said.
Solid Waste Committee Chair John Troy (D-1st Ward), meanwhile, plans to attend with Park upcoming meetings in Virgil, Scott, Preble and the city to inform the municipalities about the proposed deal.
“There’s a feeling we’re trying to sneak something by, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth,” Troy said. “We are trying to make everything transparent and that’s part of the reason we’re going to the different villages to let people know what’s going on.”
County officials have hailed the acceptance of Onondaga County ash as being a profitable deal for the county, potentially making $7 million over a 15-year period as opposed to losing about $34 million over a 23-year time frame if it keeps landfill operations the same.
But some, like legislator Briggs, question the future of the proposal since the Onondaga County Legislature still has not approved accepting outside trash or formally discussed the plan.
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