Local officials in Seneca County were critical of Seneca Meadows Inc.’s effort to expand the landfill that operates along State Route 414 in the town of Seneca Falls.

It’s existence has been a frequently-debated topic at town- and county-level politics. 

“It reeks of total disregard for Local Law 3,” Seneca Falls Town Board member Steve Churchill said after SMI’s application was discovered in a Department of Environmental Conservation database check. The state’s DEC resource center shows that in mid-July SMI applied for modification to two permits, which would clear way for expansion at the facility. 

Specifically, the company is seeking to modify its existing ECL Article 27/Part 360 solid waste management permit and ECL Article 19/ Title V permit for landfill air emissions and related materials.

SMI District Manager Kyle Black confirmed that the company was seeking an expansion of the landfill. “This application for the ‘The Valley Infill’ meets or exceeds all of the numerous, and very stringent, Federal and State environmental regulations,” he explained. “We look forward to partnering with NYSDEC to ensure we meet or exceed the expectations of all of our stakeholders.”

Meanwhile, Churchill, who previously served on the Seneca County Board of Supervisors and was a frequent-critic of Seneca Meadows, said  the topic should come up at the Town Board’s next meeting. 

Another Town Board member, Doug Avery, said asserting that this is the best way forward is “deceptive.” That is because the aforementioned Local Law 3 prevents operation of any landfills in the town beyond December 2025. If approved, the 50-acre expansion would yield an additional 15 years of operational space at the landfill’s current fill rate.

“Kyle’s assertion that this expansion, while not increasing the facility’s footprint, is the best way to go is deceptive,” Councilman Doug Avery said on Wednesday. “While filling in the valley keeps the garbage pile mostly out of sight, one only has to look at the numbers to determine the impact. The host Community Agreement currently in place has allowed for roughly 28.5 million tons of garbage since it was signed in 2007.  The additional 15 years of operating capacity they have requested would more than double that [with another] 33 million tons of someone else’s garbage being dumped on our community. Whether it is visible or not, that is completely unacceptable”

For his part, Town Supervisor Mike Ferrara said, like other members of the Town Board, he only learned about the plans for expansion in December. He said that there is not any major concern about the landfill’s operation beyond 2025, as it is unclear if the local law will still be on the books.

“I do not have a concern. Like any other business, SMI, I assume, is preparing for their future in Seneca Falls,” he added. “I have no idea what their legal approach will be if Local law 3 is still in effect come 2025.” Ferrara added that the Town Board should learn more about the application and plan at a February 2021 meeting. However, critics were quick to point out that it is nearly nine months after the application was actually submitted to the DEC for changes to permitting.

There will be public input on the matter, though. And for that, Avery said he is thankful. “I would expect that reaction to be robust. The very soul of our community is at stake,” he concluded. 

At this point, curiosity remains as to whether the Board of Supervisors will take up action on the matter. In the past, resolutions have been introduced and discussed, even though the landfill is controlled through “home rule” which gives Seneca Falls the legal, governing leverage over it.

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