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Water sampling results from Mohawk River add to concerns over pollution from Colonie Landfill

Riverkeeper, Waterford & Halfmoon call for DEC investigation as decision is pending on property’s future

Waterford, N.Y. – Local leaders from Waterford and Halfmoon, together with Riverkeeper, announced new sampling results that raise concern about contamination of the Mohawk River by the Town of Colonie Landfill, and renewed their call for further investigation by the State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Town of Waterford Supervisor John Lawler announced findings from sampling of the Mohawk River and outfalls immediately adjacent to the Colonie Landfill on the shore of the river. Sample results being submitted to DEC indicate that water contaminated by Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) is potentially being released to the Mohawk River adjacent to the landfill.

An application is pending before DEC for the permits necessary to expand the landfill. The current permits expired at the end of 2017 and the landfill is weeks away from being full. If the application is denied, the landfill would have to close this year.

Expanding the landfill would exacerbate existing problems. No decision on the application or expanded use of the landfill should be made until important questions are answered.

“The initial application – for approval to pile an additional 12 million tons of trash on an unlined toxic landfill located less than 100 yards from the Mohawk River – should have been denied long ago,” Supervisor Lawler said. “That landfill is nothing short of an environmental time bomb, and piling more trash there will only make the landfill that much more of a threat.”

PFOA has gained much attention in Hoosick Falls and elsewhere as a significant emerging contaminant presenting serious public health and environmental concerns due to its toxicity and ability to accumulate and remain in the environment. PFOA is a listed hazardous substance in New York State (6 NYCRR Part 597).

Sampling near the Colonie Landfill was conducted on several occasions in October and November 2017:

• Initially, the Town of Waterford retained Sterling Environmental Engineering, P.C. of Latham, N.Y., to sample 4 locations in the Mohawk River and two storm drains between the Town of Colonie Landfill and river. This sampling identified PFOA discharging from storm drains at reported levels up to 68.3 parts per trillion (ppt). Mohawk River water samples were reported to contain PFOA at estimated concentrations of 1 to 2 ppt.

• Subsequently, the Town of Colonie commissioned Arcadis of New York, Inc. to conduct sampling in the Mohawk River, where PFOA results were found to be 2 to 3 ppt in four samples.

• Today’s announcement concerns an analysis of samples collected by Riverkeeper in October 2017 near the landfill, including additional samples from outfalls and seeps adjacent to the landfill. The results of Riverkeeper’s sampling are consistent with earlier findings that the landfill is potentially a source of the PFOA release. The water samples obtained by Riverkeeper were analyzed at Cornell University’s Environmental Chemistry Laboratory. The reported results indicate PFOA concentrations adjacent to the landfill as high as 519 ppt. The laboratory at Cornell is well versed in environmental sample analyses although it is not certified by the New York State Department of Health for commercial laboratories conducting hazardous waste site investigations. These data nevertheless suggest the landfill may be leaking hazardous chemicals to the environment.

“Riverkeeper’s mission is to defend the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers. Whenever possible we also seek to support waterfront communities as they try to protect their local environment,” said John Lipscomb, Riverkeeper Patrol Boat Captain and Vice President for Advocacy. “Riverkeeper’s exploratory sampling last fall in the Mohawk immediately next to the Colonie landfill at several discharge points was intended to complement the sampling being conducted for the Town of Waterford and to support both Waterford and Halfmoon.”

Media reports have suggested that PFOA was dumped in the unlined portion of the Colonie Landfill in the past. Riverkeeper’s and Sterling’s sample findings raise serious questions about whether PFOA from the landfill is leaching into the Mohawk River not far from the Cohoes water intake. These samples were taken bordering the landfill in the backwater bay area near the shoreline at the outfalls and landfill seeps. Vehicles are commonly seen parked along this area for fishing throughout the year, including winter ice fishing.

“Given the evidence, it is crystal clear that expanding the landfill is a bad idea for the river and the surrounding communities,” Lipscomb said. “DEC must conduct additional sampling in and next to the landfill to identify the extent to which it is contaminated with PFOA and other hazardous substances, after which DEC must order a full remediation of the landfill to protect the Mohawk, local communities and drinking water. Siting an enormous landfill on the banks of a river upstream of a drinking water source was a terrible regulatory failure in the first place. Now it’s time to make up for that mistake – instead of compounding it.”

Halfmoon Town Supervisor Kevin J. Tollisen said: “Local citizen groups in the Town of Halfmoon have been working closely with the Town of Waterford and Riverkeeper regarding the proposed Colonie Landfill expansion. The Town of Halfmoon continues to express deep concerns with regard to public health, the environment, and the impacts to the Mohawk River viewshed. The Mohawk River in the Town of Halfmoon is on the National Register of Historic Places as well as being designated as a National Historic Landmark. Odor problems have had a direct impact on the quality of life for our residents that live in close proximity to the landfill. All of these issues that affect the quality of life for Halfmoon residents, coupled with the test results that have been provided by Riverkeeper, show the landfill expansion should not be approved by NYS DEC.”

Contacts:
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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