TOWN OF ULSTER, N.Y. — Ulster County officials are determined to find a suitable landfill location in an effort to have the first new municipal solid waste disposal dump approved by the state since 2004.
State Department of Environmental Conservation public information officer Jomo Miller on Monday noted that the Ava Landfill in Boonville in Oneida County was the last disposal site approved with a permit issued on March 22, 2004. He noted that if the county chooses to reopen the former Hertel site in Plattekill or select another location, the process would undergo significant planning.
“An application to open a landfill adjacent to a closed landfill would be treated as a new landfill application,” he wrote. “A new landfill would need to meet the site requirements of DEC’s solid waste management facility regulations 6 NYCRR Part 360 and Part 363 and would need to go through the process of obtaining any necessary permits.”
Ulster County Resource Recovery Agency officials on Jan. 5, 2022, were given a report by HydroQuest that identified two sites in Plattekill as the only suitable locations for landfills but had withheld the locations until the past month. Some details of the 29-page study that includes 16 maps have been shared by former agency officials but current administrators have withheld the report from the public as well as the county Legislature, which for several years has been pressing for a review to be conducted.
Former agency Chairwoman Katherine Beinkafner said the primary option in the report lists the former Hertel Landfill, a 73.9-acre Superfund cleanup location off of U.S. Route 44. Included is a recommendation to purchase the 166.2-acre vacant parcel that adjoins the east and front of Tuckers Corners Road. She noted that as a professional hydrologist, her work has previously included studies of contamination at the site.
“I’ve actually been there many times,” she said. “It’s right down the road from my house and I worked on it just reviewing it for the town of Plattekill.”
The second Plattekill site listed in the report is multiple parcels immediately south of Camp Sunset Road, north of Foster Road, and east along Plattekill Ardonia Road, running alongside the Central Hudson power lines. The three parcels proposed include 95 acres owned by the Orchard Project LLC, 153.7 acres owned by MPZ Holding Corporation, and 53 acres owned by Mohegan Avenue Corporation.
“(This) one I thought might be better for waste-to-energy because it’s on a power line,” Beinkafner said.
Information in the HydroQuest report was provided in two Resource Recovery Agency requests amounting to $11,000 and submitted to officials on Jan. 5, 2022.
The agency has not responded to a state Freedom of Information request for the documents and it has been so quiet that county Legislature Chairwoman Tracey Bartels was not provided a copy despite efforts for several years to have a study conducted to demonstrate that Resource Recovery Agency officials are serious about solving the very expensive solid waste disposal problem.
“That’s pretty critically important information,” she said.
“I did not know (about the recommendations) because I haven’t seen the study,” said Bartels, a non-enrolled legislator from Gardiner who aligns with Democrats. “I am fully vested in the siting of a local or regional landfill. We need to do that and we need to downsize our solid waste.”
County lawmakers are also considering the use of the Hertel site as a solar field, but during a meeting last week, they were not told that trash agency officials had been given the HydroQuest report.
Agency Executive Director Greg Ollivier, who was hired in October, said he doesn’t take the study seriously and had not read sections that identified the recommended locations because he plans to commission a “comprehensive” review.
HydroQuest owner Paul Rubin, who has worked with the state Department of Environmental Conservation and state Attorney General on landfill investigations, on Tuesday objected to the dismissive attitude taken by Ollivier. While declining to provide a copy of the report, he said the information should be available to the public and especially to lawmakers who are trying to make decisions about finding a disposal location.
“I did a pretty detailed assessment here and this is not a cursory thing,” he said. “There was (agency) input on criteria…They were absolutely onboard 100%. They paid me to do it. They used GIS technology and the fact that I’ve lived in Ulster County for half my life (means) I know the geology, and they should read it first before they start commenting.”
Rubin’s previous work with the state Attorney General’s office overlapped with part of the investigation done by former U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey, who while a state assemblyman issued the 1986 report on “Organized Crime’s Involvement in the Waste Hauling Industry,” which used the Hertel landfill as an example of how crimes were committed in the solid waste dumping industry.
“In addition to household garbage, the (Hertel) landfill accepted liquid industrial wastes,” the report states. “On one inspection, Ulster County Health Department personnel found 20 to 30 barrels of an oily sludge material and dyes stacked next to the wetland. The barrels were poorly sealed, some were broken and crushed.”
The report added that by 1975 there were “waste oils and printing ink … dumped directly into the freshwater wetlands and the headwaters of Black Creek, a popular fishing place and part of the groundwater system that provides drinking water for families living in Plattekill and Highland.”
There were also threats made to Plattekill residents by associates of hauler Joseph Fiorillo Jr., who the reports stated was using the site despite court orders and a revoked permit.
“There were reports at that time that citizens who complained to the authorities about the Fiorillos received threatening phone calls,” the report stated.
By 1976 a showdown between Fiorillo and county officials occurred when he was arrested for bringing more waste, with the report stating he vowed he was “going to keep bringing it in.” This was followed a day later by the arrest of four Dutchess Sanitation drivers.
Despite the problems, owner Angelina Hertel in June 1981 applied to “reopen the site and expand the size of the landfill from 75 to 455 acres. That request was turned down as state officials turned to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for assistance to develop a remediate plan that remains in place more than 40 years later.