For Immediate Release: Saturday, March 14, 2020
Contact: Kevin Bell (240) 247-0298
New York State Must Act to Close Toxic Landfill
Washington, DC — PEER urged the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) yesterday to close a toxic landfill that has steadily grown to dominate the skyline of the small town of Rensselaer, New York. In coordination with the Rensselaer Environmental Coalition (REC), PEER conducted sampling and testing of surface waters running adjacent to the Dunn Landfill and found elevated levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), known as “forever chemicals” due to their persistence in the human body and the environment. PFAS are a family of chemicals with direct links to cancers, motor disorders in children, obesity, endocrine disruption, and liver and thyroid diseases.
PEER’s letter to DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos disclosed findings that surface runoff, groundwater, or airborne contamination from the landfill is contributing to detectable levels of 11 PFAS substances at three locations, including a wetland adjacent to a K-12 public school.
PEER’s letter includes a summary of the test results, the full report, and a list of actions the DEC can and should take to address this contamination. PEER has asked the DEC to:
- test the leachate from the Dunn landfill for PFAS;
- ensure that the landfill is not accepting waste containing PFAS, such as carpets and car seats;
- test the effluent from the Albany County WWTP for PFAS; and
- take enforcement action against the landfill, and consider closing it once and for all.
“This landfill has operated with impunity while state regulators have focused on easy cases which affect more well-off communities with the political influence to get their attention,” explained PEER Staff Counsel Kevin Bell. “Smaller cities like Rensselaer are suffering at the hands of multi-billion dollar polluters like Dunn’s owners while Albany turns a blind eye, even to its next-door neighbor,” he continued. “The time is ripe for the DEC to step up and protect vulnerable populations against a landfill that has already blanketed the city in a horrible stench of decay, filled its quiet streets with thousands of tons of trucking, and now polluted its waters with waste from illegally dumped hazardous wastes. Enough is enough, the wrist-slap fines and lip service DEC has offered so far have accomplished nothing.”
The former gravel mine has grown from a molehill into a mountain of trash thanks to deposits from the 100+ tractor-trailers of waste which line up every day before dawn along the one-lane residential street that leads to the front gate. “This landfill is only allowed to accept construction and demolition (C&D) debris,” explained PEER’s Director of Science Policy, Kyla Bennett. C&D debris generally does not contain PFAS. “We have multiple documented instances of this dump illegally accepting general household waste, carpeting, car seats, and even biohazards like medical waste which could be responsible for the contamination we’ve measured,” she added. “If this much PFAS is in the surface water, the leachate stored under the landfill which ultimately gets flushed into the Hudson is sure to be far worse.”