State's Largest Landfill Costs New Yorkers in Constitutional Right to Clean Air + Water
Other Costs Include Lost Business for Finger Lakes + Treatment for Health Problems Related to Landfill or PFAS-exposure
SENECA FALLS, NY (10/07/2022) (readMedia)-- "Seneca Meadows" – the state's largest landfill standing at 30-stories tall – is a major contributor to climate change. The landfill costs the region and New Yorkers across the state in their constitutional right to clean air and water, in addition to unknown amounts in lost business and treatment for health problems related to exposure to the landfill. Yet, the Texas-based operator of the landfill, Waste Connections, recently filed documents with the DEC to add 47 acres of new landfill space, adding essentially another seven stories to the landfill. Waste Connections is hoping to continue operating past its current 2025 closure date and through 2040.
"Seneca Meadows landfill is poisoning New Yorkers' water and threatening the Finger Lakes' $3 billion, 60,000 job agritourism industry. While the State has invested millions in taxpayer money to promote the regional economy, this landfill has a chokehold on our local politics driving away business and companies from siting in Seneca Falls. This 30-story-tall monstrosity has already cost us big – but that does not even account for the unseen costs of treating harmful health effects or removing the PFAS-laden leachate before it reaches drinking water sources. Not to mention the migraine-inducing stench surrounding the birthplace of women's rights. Governor Hochul must direct the DEC to close this landfill in Seneca Falls in 2025 as originally planned," said Yvonne Taylor, vice president of Seneca Lake Guardian.
Costs of Seneca Meadows:
- Exposes local residents to airborne particulates and unseen gasses that are known to contribute to respiratory illness, asthma, and migraine headaches
- Burns almost a billion cubic feet of methane per year in 5 flares, which is a major contributor to climate change and hindrance on the State's goals outlined in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act of 2019
- Produces 200,000 gallons of polluted leachate per day – formed when rainwater filters through waste and contains toxic "forever chemicals'' called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)
- Only one-third of the 75 million gallons of leachate produced annually is treated
- The rest of the untreated leachate is shipped off to other locales across the state – including Watertown, Steuben County, Chittenango, and Buffalo – which may or may not be testing and removing PFAS
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 – which stands at 30 stories tall – 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 Texas based 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.
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.
Seneca Meadows 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.
The landfill 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.