174 Years After Seneca Falls Convention, Birthplace of Women's Rights Stinks
New York's Largest Landfill Poisoning the Water + Air of Seneca Falls when Women's Rights Are Under Attack Nationally
SENECA FALLS, NY (07/22/2022) (readMedia)-- This week marks the 174th anniversary of the Seneca Falls Convention, which was the first women's rights convention in the U.S. and took place in Seneca Falls, NY. Syracuse Post-Standard today published the following op-ed from Yvonne Taylor, vice president of Seneca Lake Guardian, who writes that the State's largest landfill is poisoning the air and water in the birthplace of women's rights. Texas-owned Waste Connections, who operates the landfill, wants to extend their permits to allow the landfill to continue operating through 2040 and expand their permits to add another 47 acres. New Yorkers, Taylor writes, need the State's first female governor to shut it down.
The op-ed is below:
By Yvonne Taylor, VP of Seneca Lake Guardian
On this week in 1848, 300 people gathered for the first women's rights convention in the United States – right in Seneca Falls, New York. For two days, attendees heard impassioned speeches from Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Frederick Douglass and others at the Wesleyan Chapel, and the "Declaration of Sentiments," written largely by Stanton, became the resulting manifesto. 174 years later, the Supreme Court just dealt women's rights a heavy blow by overturning a constitutional right to abortion that women have relied on for 50 years. In writing their decision, the majority grossly overlooked a historical reality that's much closer in the rearview mirror than they'd like us all to believe: For much of our nation's history, women were not just barred from legally owning property, but were also regarded as the property of their fathers or husbands. Case in point, for many of us, a woman getting a credit card without needing a man to cosign was a development that happened in our lifetimes. The convention in Seneca Falls was a truly radical event that opened doors for women that were unimaginable – like New York getting its first female governor.
But at a time when that history could not be more relevant or more worth physically visiting, the birthplace of women's rights in the U.S. stinks – literally.
That's because Seneca Falls is also home to the largest landfill in the State – Seneca Meadows – which is permitted to accept 6,000 tons of waste and produce up to 200,000 gallons of toxic leachate per day. A quarter of this odorous tower of garbage is made up just of NYC's waste, in addition to waste from four other states. Owned by Texas-based Waste Connections, the Seneca Meadows landfill is poisoning our water and air, while pumping a putrid odor far and wide and threatening the Finger Lakes' $3 billion, 60,000 job agritourism industry that the State is heavily invested in boosting.
It's not just about the smell: The landfill is too big for methane controls, which not only makes it a large contributor to climate change, but it also exposes locals to airborne particulates and unseen gasses known to contribute to respiratory illness, asthma and migraine headaches.
And this doesn't just impact Seneca Falls: Leachate and wastewater runoff from the landfill contain PFAS – a toxic chemical found in everyday items like dental floss and GORE-TEX products – which can cause widespread contamination of drinking water and harmful health impacts. The landfill produces 75 million gallons of leachate each year, which is distributed not just to Seneca Falls, but also to Buffalo, Watertown, Chittenango, and Steuben County. To put it simply, the landfill is contaminating the drinking water of New Yorkers across the state.
The landfill was slated to close by the end of 2025, but the Texas based company that owns it bought off the Town Board and County elected officials, contributing $280,000 in races that are often won with just a few hundred dollars. Now, the company is planning for a seven-story high expansion, which would keep the landfill operating until 2040.
Governor Kathy Hochul – whose ascension to power would not have been possible without that convention 174 years ago – can and must fight back against the corrupting influence of money in politics, which is keeping the region and its incredibly important landmarks and natural resources in a stranglehold by an out-of-state company.
Less than 200 years ago, the crowd at Seneca Falls set in motion the movement that seventy years later secured women the right to vote with the 19th Amendment. And it's from their radical vision that New Yorkers also now have the constitutional right to clean air, clean water and a healthful environment – one of a few major rights currently threatened by recent decisions made by the Supreme Court. As Americans' rights are being stripped away by a radical group of 6 unelected judges, Governor Hochul can keep pushing the nation forward by directing the Department of Environmental Conversation to shut down the landfill. We cannot allow anyone, quite literally, to dump on women in New York state.
Seneca Meadows Inc. Landfill
The Seneca Meadows landfill, located in Seneca Falls, the birthplace of American Women's Rights, is the largest of 27 landfills in New York State. It is permitted to accept 6,000 tons of waste and produce up to 200,000 gallons of polluted leachate – formed when rainwater filters through waste – per day. A quarter of the landfill is trash from NYC, followed by four other states.
Seneca Meadows was previously required to stop receiving waste and halt operations by December 31, 2025. However, Waste Connections, the parent company of Seneca Meadows Inc., contributed around $280,000 in 2021 to pro-landfill candidates who won seats in Town Board and County races and are now supporting the Valley Infill, SMI's planned seven-story high expansion. The expansion would keep the landfill operating through 2040 with allowable dumping on the Valley Infill (the former toxic Tantalo superfund site), rising another 70 feet into the viewscape.
Even with the planned closure in 2025, the mountain of garbage promises years of problems and remediation that could take generations to mitigate. Waste Connections recently filed documents with the DEC to add 47 acres of new landfill space in the so-called valley infill between its two existing facilities and allow the landfill to continue operating through 2040.
Leachate and wastewater runoff from the landfill contain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which can cause widespread contamination of drinking water and harmful health impacts. Seneca Meadows produces 75 million gallons of leachate each year which is distributed not just to Seneca Falls but also to Buffalo, Watertown, Chittenango, and Steuben County, contaminating drinking water across the state.
SMI is located two miles from Cayuga-Seneca Canal and three miles from every school in Seneca Falls and Waterloo, exposing students to airborne particulates and unseen gasses known to contribute to respiratory illness, asthma, and migraine headaches. The landfill cannot process all of the methane that is generated and is forced to burn almost a billion cubic feet per year in 5 flares, contributing to climate change.
SMI is harming the Finger Lakes' natural resources that have led to the region being under consideration for a National Heritage Area Designation, and which the $3 billion, 60,000-employee wine and agritourism economy rely on. The odor from the landfill can be smelled from miles away, including at Thruway exit 41, the northern gateway to the Finger Lakes. Large, sustainable employers in the area are finding it difficult to recruit and retain employees, because nobody wants to raise a family near a dangerous landfill.
SMI's expansion is also at odds with the overwhelmingly popular amendment to the New York state constitution passed last year, which guarantees every New Yorker the right to clean air, clean water, and a healthful environment.
About Seneca Lake Guardian
Seneca Lake Guardian is a New York State Not-for-Profit Corporation with 501(c)(3) and is dedicated to preserving and protecting the health of the Finger Lakes, its residents and visitors, its rural community character, and its agricultural and tourist related businesses through public education, citizen participation, engagement with decision makers, and networking with like-minded organizations.