FLZWC Petitions EPA Over Landfill Emissions in Ontario County

[Press Release, January 14, 2013]  To download the press release, click here.

Finger Lakes Zero Waste Coalition, Inc., has petitioned the federal Environmental Protection Agency to reopen a Title V permit that regulates air pollution from the landfill gas-to-energy facility (LFGTE plant) operated by Seneca Energy II, LLC., located on the site of the Ontario County landfill in the Town of Seneca.

The present permit treats Seneca Energy’s air pollution as unrelated to air pollution from the landfill, which is owned by Ontario County and operated under a lease by Casella Waste Systems, LLC. The main argument of the petition is that the combined emissions of the LFGTE plant and the landfill should be considered a single stationary source and regulated as such.

According to Douglas Knipple, President of FLZWC, “Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act from NY State and County sources indicate that Seneca Energy and the landfill acted together to circumvent emissions accounting rules that would require both to operate under more stringent “major source” regulations under the Clean Air Act. The EPA is quite clear in its guidance on these matters.”

The petition alleges, among other things, that the County and Casella have been falsely reporting lower emissions than what are actually generated at the landfill by failing to account for emissions from so-called “beneficial use” materials (BUD) used routinely as alternative daily cover at the landfill.

BUD accounts for about one-sixth of total tonnage deposited in the landfill in 2011 and includes such materials as contaminated soil, incinerator ash, paper mill sludge, industrial sludge, construction and demolition debris, and shredder fluff. These materials generate substantial quantities of Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs) regulated by the EPA.

According to the petition, the annual reports of Seneca Energy and landfill operator Casella indicate that the combined facilities have been operating for several years at emission levels that are not permitted, and will continue to operate at such levels.

Knipple stated, “Excessive emissions are related to the odor problem at this landfill, but the pollutants that we can smell are just the tip of the iceberg. The bulk of regulated toxic compounds that this landfill emits are odorless.”

The petition alleges that the controls at the landfill are inadequate to destroy toxic emissions generated by the landfill. According to Knipple, “The regulations require the destruction of 98 percent of the toxics. Had the County and Casella installed proper controls, residents would not be breathing odorous toxic compounds.”

He went on to say that the organization had no recourse but to file the petition. “Since our founding in 2008, we have attempted to constructively engage the County Board of Supervisors on solid waste management and planning issues.”

“We provided considerable input and facilitated citizen input to the County on its 10-year Solid Waste Management Plan, but none of our recommendations were substantively addressed in the final document that the County sent to Albany. Similarly, our comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the landfill expansion were not taken seriously.”

“The dismissive, disdainful attitude of some of the Supervisors on the so-called Environmental Quality Committee toward the legitimate complaints of citizens living downwind of this landfill is perfectly captured in remarks in Supervisor Dodie Huber’s “Landfill Hysteria” Guest Appearance in the Finger Lakes Times on December 11, 2012.”

“It is evident that these politicians value their contract with Casella and the short term revenue stream it generates more than the long term health and immediate quality of life issues of their constituents. I should add that Casella’s carefully crafted contract with the County will not shield the County from liability for excessive emissions.”

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