Read the full article by Brendan J. Lyons and Steve Hughes (The Telegram)
“PETERSBURGH — The town board of this pollution-afflicted Rensselaer County community on Monday night failed to pass a consent order for the cleanup and permanent closure of a contaminated landfill that the state allowed to sit idle for two decades until extremely high levels of a man-made toxic compound were discovered there in 2016.
The tabling of the consent order could have consequences for Berlin, a neighboring town that shares ownership of the landfill. Under the proposal, the two communities have until Feb. 28 to approve the order with the state Department of Environmental Conservation. In Petersburgh, the agreement was part of a larger arrangement would have resulted in two payments from companies deemed responsible for the contamination: $200,000 from the industrial waste management firm Covanta and $250,000 from Taconic Plastics.
Kevin M. Young, the town’s attorney, pushed for approval of the consent order. ‘Now that (the landfill) has PFOA in it, we can’t look away,’ he told the board.
The proceedings included a failed attempt by some members of the board to go behind closed doors to consider the agreement.
Under the proposal, the town would enter a consent order with the DEC that would require the installation of a system for collecting the pollutants that are spreading from the site.
The board, with one member absent, split 2-2 on the initial vote to go into executive session, which kept the debate in the open. Heinz Noeding, one of two new members who were sworn in last month, led the push to keep the discussion in public and sparred with Young on various details of the deals and whether the town was better off taking another avenue.
Young told the board and public that if they didn’t agree to the consent order, the state would move to declare the landfill a Superfund site — something the town would pay for in the long run. It was unclear from Young’s statements how much the two companies would be released from possible future liability for the landfill.
The Petersburgh meeting was held four days after the Berlin Town Board discussed the landfill behind closed doors and emerged with little information to share with the public.
Noeding said before the meeting that the board had an obligation to keep the matter in the open.
‘These issues need to be discussed publicly and there needs to be decisions made as to how we proceed,’ said Noeding, who believes the public should have more information and input on decisions about the cost of the cleanup, where the money would come from, and why Taconic would be released from liability.
The 22-acre landfill on Jones Hollow Road has been owned by the towns of Berlin and Petersburgh since 1982. Many unlined landfills across the state were ordered by the state Department of Environmental Conservation to shut down in the 1980s. In 1991, a plan was reached to have a private waste management firm oversee the closure.
Although the landfill was capped and seeded with vegetation, no system for collecting pollutants as they spread from the site — known as a leachate collection system — was installed. As a consequence, pollutants have been seeping into groundwater and a small tributary of the Little Hoosic River that runs just west of the dump. It’s unclear why the DEC allowed the landfill to sit idle for nearly two decades without a final closure plan.
The landfill cleanup was revived four years ago with the discovery that numerous manufacturing companies in eastern Rensselaer County, including Taconic’s plant, had been polluting soil and groundwater — including public and private drinking water wells — with an unregulated toxic manmade chemical, perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).
The state has indicated it would declare the landfill to be a Superfund site and seize control of the cleanup if the towns fail to act. PFOA and similar chemicals were found in testing wells at levels around 8,000 parts per trillion. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has determined that drinking water concentrations of PFOA of 70 parts per trillion or lower ‘offer a margin of protection for all individuals throughout their lives from adverse health effects resulting from exposure.’
The Berlin-Petersburgh landfill is surrounded by rural residential property…”