Off the Northway: County landfill sale moving ahead

It’s looking like full speed ahead for Saratoga County’s plan to let a third party open the unused c

It’s looking like full speed ahead for Saratoga County’s plan to let a third party open the unused county landfill in a remote corner of the farming community of Northumberland.

This week, county officals reported that they’d received a new 10-year operating permit for the empty landfill, clearing one potential hurdle.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation — which had never before been asked to renew a never-used landfill permit — has said yes. But all of the impermeable linings, pumps and equipment will need to pass an engineer’s inspection first, and any necessary repairs will need to be made by next summer.

That decision comes as the county is soliciting proposals from private operators, whom county officials hope will be willing to fork over millions of dollars for bulldozer-ready landfill space.

Town officials acknowledge that the opening can’t be stopped. Their long 1990s fight to keep the landfill from being built in town — led by the current town supervisor’s uncle, Edgar King — was lost long ago.

“In the end, I believe being on the inside helping steer the direction is better than being on the outside throwing rocks,” said town Supervisor Bill Peck, a member of the county’s landfill subcommittee.

Waste industry players like Waste Connections of Houston, Texas, and Casella Waste Systems of Rutland, Vt., have expressed interest. Finch Paper, the Glens Falls mill with an operating paper sludge landfill on adjoining land, has also been watching in a more-than-casual way.

Initial sale or lease proposals are due in the county offices by Oct. 9.

In a bidding addendum released this week, the county has set aside multiple dates in later October “to negotiate with multiple respondents.” The county’s goal is a decision by the end of the year.

One condition county officials have set is that a “majority” of the waste must be from Saratoga County or the immediately surrounding counties.

In a development that is separate — kind of — the county sewer district last week revealed interest in building a new sewage treatment plant, the district’s second, on the landfill property.

It would be a $60 million project to divert and treat waste from Saratoga Springs and Wilton that now goes to a sewage plant in Halfmoon. But not coincidently, it could treat leachate — the none-too-tasty brew that collects in the bottom of a landfill.

County officials are telling prospective bidders the sewage plant should be ready within five years, an ambitious schedule.

The landfill was built at the end of Kobor Road between 1998 and 2000, at a cost of about $10 million. It has never been used. Commercial trash haulers are taking county residents’ waste to other places, but county officials call the empty facility a

“safety net” against higher costs being imposed at the Colonie landfill and other facilities. Now the question — put bluntly — is whether it can become a cash spigot for the financially strapped county.

What’s being offered is a constructed nine-acre landfill cell, 15 additional acres approved for landfill use, monitoring wells, pumps and other equipment and a garage/administration building.

Whoever runs the landfill will also become responsible for maintaining a 35-acre plot of county land south of the landfill that is set aside as protected habitat for the Northern Harrier, a ground-nesting hawk that’s on the state’s threatened species list.

I’m not expecting seagulls to ever turn up on that list, no matter how much they deserve it.

Look for harrier-gull conflicts when the landfill opens, since the new state permit prohibits “active harassment” of the gulls it will draw.

Firehouse rescue

Kudos to Gov. Andrew Cuomo for delivering $640,000 in state funding to the Adirondack town of Keene so it can start building a new firehouse.

When I was there in early August, land on Route 73 opposite the Stewart’s shop was already being cleared for a new $2.3 million station to replace the one badly damaged by Tropical Storm Irene’s flooding.

But a day or two after that, the Federal Emergency Management Agency pulled $340,000 in expected funding, forcing a groundbreaking to be postponed. On Wednesday, Cuomo went to Keene to announce that the state would cover the difference.

“New York state made a clear commitment to communities hit hard by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee that we will be with you every step of the way as you rebuild and recover,” the governor said.

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