News > News > Preserve River Ecology > Riverkeeper joins communities opposing Colonie landfill expansion on Mohawk River

Riverkeeper joins communities opposing Colonie landfill expansion on Mohawk River

Waterford, N.Y. – The environmental watchdog group Riverkeeper has joined with the communities of Waterford and Halfmoon in an effort to collect water samples near the Colonie Town Landfill located on the shores of the Mohawk River. The project will help the communities gather data and information as the state considers a proposal for a landfill expansion that will likely have significant impacts to the Mohawk River and the ecosystem.

A proposed landfill expansion – subject to approval by the state Department of Environmental Conservation – could triple the size of the landfill, adding as much as 12 million tons of additional garbage in an environmentally sensitive area. If approved, the already existing mountain of garbage would rise another 100 feet or more above its current height, towering over the existing landscape. The landfill currently rises about 400 feet above sea level and is approved to rise to 430 feet. The proposal would raise the approved height from 430 to 517 feet above sea level – 87 feet above what is currently permitted, and more than 100 feet over what exists on the site now.

The potential for water runoff into Mohawk is especially concerning as the Mohawk is the source of drinking water for the City of Cohoes, just 1.5 miles downstream from the landfill.

“The days when landfills were sited on the banks of rivers are over,” said John Lipscomb, Riverkeeper Patrol Boat Captain and Vice President of Advocacy. “The only appropriate action for this landfill is closure and remediation – not expansion. The Mohawk has been terribly abused in the past – enough is enough. It’s time to start healing.”

“The Towns of Waterford and Halfmoon are opposed to this poorly planned, totally unneeded expansion, which is nothing less than attack on the Mohawk River ecosystem and on the quality of life of the thousands of residents whose homes border the already noxious landfill,” Waterford Town Supervisor Jack Lawler said. “We have made a very strong case that this expansion application should be denied as it has failed to meet even the minimum requirements set forth by DEC.”

“Waterford and Halfmoon welcome the support of the prestigious Riverkeeper organization,” Halfmoon Town Supervisor Kevin Tollisen said. “Our communities are united with Riverkeeper in opposing the plans to create a massive pile of garbage, estimated at more than 100 feet higher than its current height, on the banks of the beautiful Mohawk River. The existing permit for the landfill expires on 12/31/17, and we call upon DEC to do the right thing and to close this blight on the environment.”

Riverkeeper has conducted monthly patrols of the Mohawk, the Hudson’s largest tributary, since spring of 2015, expanding efforts to protect the Hudson River watershed. In partnership with local organizations, institutions such as SUNY Cobleskill and community scientists, Riverkeeper monitors water quality along the Hudson and tributaries, measuring levels of sewage contamination and seeking to help communities identify problems and solutions. (Data is available at Riverkeeper.org.) Riverkeeper also identifies active polluters or activities that will lead to pollution.

To support the landfill opposition in the area of the Colonie landfill, Riverkeeper is testing not only for fecal contamination but for a range of emerging contaminants of concern, including industrial contaminants and pharmaceuticals.

“Riverkeeper’s mission is to protect the Hudson River watershed, and the Mohawk is the largest tributary to the Hudson. Riverkeeper aligns itself with communities trying to protect their local environment, water quality and quality of life,” Riverkeeper’s Captain Lipscomb said. “That’s why we are here today – supporting the Mohawk River and the communities of Waterford and Halfmoon. We also hope to support Cohoes, which has a drinking water intake downstream of the landfill.”

George Harris of Church Hill Historic District said: “It appears there has been no sampling of the Mohawk River or sediments to directly evaluate and monitor potential landfill impacts.”

Harris, a retired engineer, provided the following analysis after reviewing the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) submitted by the Town of Colonie to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation:

“Operating over the last 40 years, the landfill now towers some 225 feet over the adjacent Mohawk River. After two FOIL requests to the state DEC, the only water samples our group has received are from the Route 32 Waterford Cohoes Bridge, more than 2 miles below the landfill and downstream of the City of Cohoes water intake. They are below the Falls and are essentially of no value in evaluating potential landfill impacts. Those samples results were received well after the public comment period closed. The existing environmental monitoring program, and the new one proposed in the DEIS for the Landfill Expansion, also have no sampling of River water or sediments. This is in spite of the fact that:

• A 1992 Engineering Report recommended a sampling program, which was never conducted, to evaluate potential impacts of onsite contamination to the Mohawk River;
• The proposed landfill expansion will cover approximately 25 acres of a contaminated inactive hazardous waste site;
• The Site Investigation Report in the DEIS / Engineering Report indicates that the water bearing zones beneath the landfill flow into the Mohawk River;
• The Site Investigation Report in the DEIS / Engineering Report indicates that the groundwater under the landfill has numerous exceedances of groundwater standards;
• The landfill operator was issued a notice of violation in 2015 documenting contamination of stormwater outfall areas that lead into the Mohawk River;
• After the Hoosic Falls landfill closed, the Colonie Landfill was still accepting industrial wastes, potentially PFOA wastes from Saint-Gobain and related industries;
• There are two outfalls that discharge directly into the River that are not currently sampled under the landfill’s stormwater monitoring plan.

“The proposed landfill doesn’t just serve the Town of Colonie. The Landfill Expansion Proposal (DEIS) states: ‘The primary service area for the Town’s landfill is New York State. Service area boundaries for the proposed Area 7 Development are not intended to be permanent or exclusive.’ This appears to indicate that the Landfill is anticipating accepting waste from an area even significantly larger that the local counties it is currently accepting waste from as indicated in the Local Solid Waste Management Plan.”

Contacts:

John Lipscomb, Riverkeeper Patrol Boat Captain, jlipscomb@riverkeeper.org, (914) 806-6753
Leah Rae, Riverkeeper Media Specialist, lrae@riverkeeper.org, (914) 715-6821
John Lawler, Waterford Supervisor, lawlerj@town.waterford.ny.us, (518) 391-9350
Kevin Tollisen, Halfmoon Supervisor, ktollisen@townofhalfmoon.org, (518) 371-7410 Ext. 2200

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