UPDATE: The town board of Seneca Falls has decided to hold off on a decision to approve Local Law 2, which would overturn a 2016 law requiring the Seneca Meadows Landfill to close by 2025, as reported by the Finger Lake Times.
The board held a public hearing about the law on March 29, but voted unanimously to table a decision on it at their most recent meeting on April 4. Opinions vary among town officials and residents on how to proceed. Some want to see the 2016 law — Local Law 3 — stay in place. Others want more time to consider the environmental implications of repealing it. Others would prefer to wait on a decision until a lawsuit from Seneca Meadows is heard in court.
The earliest the board could consider this decision again is at its next scheduled meeting on May 2.
- The town board of Seneca Falls, NY voted 3-2 in favor of introducing a new law that would repeal Local Law 3 of 2016, a previous effort to mandate a 2025 closure date for the Seneca Meadows Landfill, at their most recent meeting on Feb. 16, as reported by the Finger Lakes Times.
- Local Law 2 of 2017 was introduced by one of the multiple newly elected board members who want to discuss changing the existing host community benefits agreement with the landfill rather than shutting the site down. A public hearing on the law has been scheduled for March 4 and a new state environmental review would be required.
- Seneca Meadows filed a lawsuit challenging Local Law 3 on Feb. 3 and the town was originally scheduled to file a response last week. An extension has now been granted to respond by May 19, though if the law is repealed, the lawsuit will no longer be relevant. The question of the landfill's permit renewal is currently unresolved pending all of these results.
Debate over what to do with Seneca Meadows has dragged on for years, centering around the usual complaints about odors and truck traffic that often come up around contentious landfill sites. As is often the case in these situations, one of the main issues has been how the loss of community benefit payments, sales taxes and a free local disposal site would affect the town's budget. The small town received $3 million in host benefits for 2016.
Last spring, these ongoing issues were cited by former owner Progressive Waste Solutions as one of the reasons they pulled out of a contract to export waste from New York's Department of Sanitation up to the site. Though Seneca Meadows was already accepting waste from the city via truck, the prospect of installing infrastructure for long-term rail transfer was strongly opposed by residents. Waste Management was recently selected to take on the $3.3 billion contract instead and will be utilizing its own landfills in New York and Virginia.
Since Waste Connections acquired Progressive, and Seneca Meadows, they have ramped up efforts to engage with the community and are working to install more than $12 million in odor mitigation equipment. A recently negotiated agreement between nearby Ontario County and Casella Waste Systems show that it is possible to reach a landfill compromise with more favorable community terms. Whether that can happen in Seneca Falls after years of legal action, political maneuvers and local opposition remains unclear.
If the landfill is allowed to stay open long-term, the debate over accepting large amounts of waste from New York City may come up again in the future. In a recent earnings calls, Waste Connections CEO Ron Mittelstaedt was optimistic about his company's chances of winning business if a potential commercial waste franchise system is implemented. Waste Connections has transfer stations in multiple boroughs and some day they could be sending even more trucks up north.