A former rod and gun club that Saratoga County is preparing to sell because of unpaid back taxes contains an informal landfill that requires cleanup, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
The construction and demolition debris dump identified at the Round Lake Rod & Gun Club could complicate the county’s efforts to sell the property.
The 33-acre property is among those scheduled to be sold at a Sept. 16 auction in Ballston Spa. County officials said the landfill situation will be disclosed to prospective buyers.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Paul Sausville, R-Malta, said the county attorney has advised them that the property remain on the auction block, “of course, with full disclosure.”
The DEC, in an Aug. 19 letter, said the county, as current owner of the property, should remove any recyclable materials like metal, plastic or glass found in the landfill. The landfill should then be covered with two feet of compacted soil to protect the environment from contamination, the department said.
Also, if ownership is transferred to someone else, the new owner should be notified of details about the landfill and DEC’s knowledge of it, wrote David Mt.Pleasant, acting regional materials management engineer.
“While this is not a regulatory requirement for this former C&D landfill, I wanted to make you aware of this process,” Mt.Pleasant wrote.
The DEC investigation was requested by the town of Malta last spring and included two site visits and testing of stream samples. The DEC letter was directed to Saratoga County as the property owner.
Sausville said the county’s legal advisers said not to begin cleanup, to avoid the county assuming liability for a full remediation.
“Once we start managing the site, we become responsible for it,” Sausville said.
Under most circumstances, state law protects municipalities from liability if they are only holding a property’s title pending a tax auction and not actively managing it. The county took title to the property by foreclosure last December because of $30,000 in unpaid back taxes between 2011 and 2013.
The club, located at the end of Ruhle Road South on land overlooking the Ballston Creek ravine, has disbanded. The land adjoins the county’s popular Zim Smith recreation trail.
Town officials previously had some interest in acquiring the property to use as either a highway department storage site or a park. The town pulled the property from the county’s March tax auction to have sufficient time to investigate the environmental issues surrounding the dump, but it isn’t interested after receiving the new information.
“I think we should run, not walk, away from ownership of the property,” said Town Attorney Tom Peterson.
“If the county doesn’t sell it, we’ll see what happens at that point,” said town Councilman Peter Klotz.
The dumping at the club took place between the 1960s and the 1980s, according to DEC. Charred debris from a 1985 fire at the club was also buried in the landfill.
DEC’s investigation found some liquid runoff from the landfill is going into a small stream that runs next to it and discharges into Ballston Creek.
While DEC made two visits, the letter says the agency did not investigate high levels of lead in the soil because of skeet shooting. It noted, though, that a 1989 study done by Malta town engineers found lead contamination and lead in the tap water, which came from an on-site well.