Categories: Schenectady County
It’s been a decade since the county finished building its $10 million landfill in rural Northumberland.
It has never received even the first apple core of municipal waste.
The county has simply sat on the empty 10-acre pit after finding, while it was being designed and built, that the waste generated by county residents was being taken to landfills or other facilities outside the county.
Still, the county got a 10-year landfill operating permit from the state Department of Environmental Conservation back in 1998, requiring the dumping site to be ready to operate on short notice when needed.
That permit expires in October. County officials said this week they’re planning to ask to renew it for another 10 years. The renewal application is due to DEC in April.
The reapplication doesn’t mean the landfill is going to open, officials said.
“It’s protecting our investment and keeping our options open, if the need for a landfill ever does arise,” said county Public Works Committee Chairman Alan R. Grattidge, R-Charlton.
The committee this week authorized the county Department of Public Works to go ahead with a minor consulting contract — probably for less than $10,000 — to have professional engineers review the current condition of the landfill and equipment at it, and prepare a report for DEC.
The plan is to hire Malcolm Pirnie of Latham, the same firm that did the original design of the landfill back in the 1990s.
Normally, after 10 years of operation the DEC requires a landfill to produce a permit compliance report in order to renew an operating permit. But because the Saratoga County landfill never opened, the state is instead asking for an updated engineering assessment of the facility.
“It’s a unique situation,” said county Recycling Coordinator Joseph Miranda, who is the only administrative employee at the landfill.
There’s on-site equipment like pumps that need evaluation, he said. Those pumps are only pumping rainwater, rather than the polluted landfill runoff called leachate they were designed for.
The landfill’s cell is like a bathtub, lined with plastic and clay intended to prevent pollution of surrounding groundwater by leachate. The pumping system collects the liquid that accumulates in the bottom.
The landfill was built at the end of Kobor Road, on a bluff about a mile west of the Hudson River, in 1997-1998. That only happened after a protracted public struggle in which the county project was opposed in court by the town of Northumberland and vocally by a number of its residents. Its lack of use since then has made it an object of ridicule by critics.
Right next door is a very active landfill used to dispose of paper manufacturing sludge from the Finch Pruyn & Co. paper mill in Glens Falls.
The county landfill hasn’t been needed because residential and commercial waste generated by the county’s 215,000 residents is almost all handled by private waste haulers, who make their own disposal arrangements.
Miranda said the waste ends up at the Colonie and Albany landfills in Albany County, the municipal incinerator in Hudson Falls, or at private transfer stations whose owners haul waste as far as Seneca and Clinton counties to be buried in private landfills.
There is also considerably more material being recycled by residents and businesses than there was when the county was designing its landfill.
Before 1990, nearly every town had its own small landfill, but none of them had current anti-pollution systems, and they were shut down under pressure from state environmental officials.