FACT SHEET: Seneca Meadows Landfill: Poisoning Drinking Water Across New York State
Leachate from State's Largest Landfill in Seneca Falls Travels to Localities Across NY, Contaminating Drinking Water Sources with toxic PFAS
SENECA FALLS, NY (07/18/2022) (readMedia)-- Seneca Lake Guardian – the small group that recently scored a major victory by defeating the permit of a cryptomining site that was destroying the natural resources of the Finger Lakes – is now setting its sights on closing the State's largest landfill in Seneca Falls called "Seneca Meadows." The odor of Seneca Meadows can be smelled from miles away, and it's permitted to accept 6,000 tons of waste and produce up to 200,000 gallons of polluted leachate – formed when rainwater filters through waste and contains toxic "forever chemicals'' called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) – per day. The landfill also exposes local residents to airborne particulates and unseen gasses that are known to contribute to respiratory illness, asthma, and migraine headaches. Yet, Texas-based Waste Connections that runs the landfill 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.
"Seneca Meadows landfill is poisoning our water and air, while pumping a putrid odor far and wide and threatening our $3 billion, 60,000 job agritourism industry in the Finger Lakes. But Seneca Falls is not the only community impacted: Millions of gallons of leachate that the landfill produces annually get discharged to Seneca Falls, Governor Hochul's home city of Buffalo, Watertown, Steuben County and other communities where it is dumped into drinking water sources, threatening many NY communities. To put it in even simpler terms, this landfill – a quarter of which is made up of New York City's trash – is polluting the drinking water of New Yorkers across the state. We're calling on Governor Hochul, who recently made a big investment in water infrastructure upgrades in New York, to direct the DEC to close the landfill in Seneca Falls in 2025 as originally planned. We cannot let this out-of-state company continue contaminating the drinking water of thousands of New Yorkers," said Yvonne Taylor, vice president of Seneca Lake Guardian.
The impact of the landfill, which is owned by a Texas-based company called Waste Connections, is statewide. Leachate and wastewater runoff from the landfill contain PFAS, which can cause widespread contamination of drinking water and harmful health impacts. According to the 2021 Annual Report, 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, and the leachate eventually ends up in sources for drinking water. Only a third of the leachate is treated, while the rest of the untreated leachate is trucked to communities across the state and in New Jersey. The attached chart from the 2021 Annual Report outlines where the leachate is going.
- Buffalo receives nearly 44 million gallons of leachate annually
- Watertown receives more than 8 million gallons of leachate annually
- Chittenango receives more than one million gallons of leachate annually
A quarter of the landfill is from New York City, and 12 percent comes from out of state, a breakdown of which is attached. Only one percent of the waste in the landfill originates from Seneca Falls.
- Nearly eight percent of the landfill is made up of waste from Massachusetts
- Four other states make up over four percent of the landfill, including construction debris from Connecticut
- The landfill accepts more than 300 tons per year of asbestos from Massachusetts and Canada.
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 until 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 until 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 Cauyga-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 is 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.