Pictured above: the only hazardous waste landfill in New York State, the Chemical Waste Management (CWM) facility in Niagara County
Just a mile from the Lewiston-Porter Central Schools, two miles from the Niagara River, and three miles to Lake Ontario sits New York’s only hazardous waste landfill, the Chemical Waste Management (CWM) facility in the Town of Porter, NY. For nearly 40 years, the residents of Niagara County and the nearby Great Lakes have been unduly burdened with the only hazardous waste landfill capacity in the state. CWM is proposing to increase capacity and extend the life of the landfill. CCE strongly opposes increased capacity because:
- Increased capacity is not appropriate or necessary
Dumping toxic waste in landfills is not the answer. New York State Law established a hierarchy for managing hazardous waste, which stated that landfilling is the least preferential method of managing waste. This hierarchy, in descending order of preference, is:
- Reduce the amount of waste generated;
- Reuse material for the purpose for which it was originally intended or to recycle material that cannot be reused;
- Recover, in an environmentally acceptable manner, energy from solid waste that cannot be economically and technically reused or recycled; and
- Dispose of solid waste that is not being reused, recycled or from which energy is not being recovered, by land burial or other methods approved by the Department (ECL 27-0106.1).
Additionally, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and U.S. EPA have determined that there is sufficient landfill capacity in the U.S. until at least 2034 - without increased capacity at CWM. Increased capacity at CWM is unnecessary!
There is a great deal of uncertainty about the long-term containment of hazardous waste in a landfill. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognizes that all landfills will likely eventually leak. Hazardous waste leaks poses a threat to the environment, due to the close proximity to the Great Lakes, which contain 20% of the world’s fresh water and provide drinking water to more than 40 million people. Scientists recognize the Great Lakes are already on the tipping point of ecological collapse, and further chemical contamination is extremely detrimental to the ecosystem. CWM has also been charged for direct illegal discharges in to the Niagara River.
Pictured above: Hazardous waste truck bound for CWM overturned at the corner of Creek Road and Balmer Road, just past the Lewiston-Porter Schools. Photo courtesy of Residents for Responsible Government (RRG). RRG recently filed a lawsuit against DEC to stop the RMU-1 capacity increase.
Ton after ton, trucks haul in dangerous toxic waste to this community, including a substantial amount of Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB’s) – probable carcinogens that persist in the environment. Trucks pass directly by Lewiston-Porter schools on their way to CWM. CWM is only a mile a way from the schools, which consists of 2,500 students and 400 faculty members.
A 2008 study by the NYS Department of Health found elevated levels of cancer in the area, particularly children from the Lewiston-Porter school district. While the report did not prove a connection to the CWM facility and high cancer rates, the correlation raises serious concerns that require precaution.
CWM has been charged with a laundry list of violations that have occurred in recent years, many of which are included in the November 12, 2008 DEC Consent Order that penalized CWM $175,000 (DEC press release on violations). Violations in this enforcement action include discharge of foam directly into the Niagara River, leaking drums within the facility, stormwater violations, leachate level exceedances, and many more.
Enough is Enough: No more capacity at CWM!
The DEC permit for the current landfill facility, Residuals Management Unit – 1 (RMU-1), will expire in the year 2010 (although capacity exists for a few years beyond 2010). CWM has proposed to:
- Utilize a thinner cover at the current RMU-1 facility, increasing capacity by approximately 107,000 cubic feet, and extending the life of RMU-1 for an additional year. CCE strongly opposes DEC’s decision to accept the CWM proposal (CCE’s comments opposing increased capacity at RMU-1);
- Expand to a RMU-2 facility, which will bring harmful hazardous waste to Niagara County for many years to come.
CCE strongly advocates that the facility should be permanently closed when RMU-1 facility reaches full capacity, which is estimated to occur in the next 3-4 years.
New York State Hazardous Waste Siting Plan
On October 18, 2010, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) finalized the State Hazardous Waste Management Siting Plan, after two drafts were released for public comment and review in 2008 and 2009. The siting plan is to be used as guidance for siting new or expanded hazardous waste management facilities, and determining hazardous waste capacity in the state.
The final plan correctly states “there is no need for additional hazardous waste management facilities or expanded hazardous waste management capacity in New York.” EPA estimates that there is sufficient national capacity for hazardous waste through at least 2034, thus making any new or expanded facilities in NYS unnecessary.
The final plan also allows for a siting board to consider closed landfills when considering a permit application for a new or expanded facility. CWM already has hundreds of thousands of tons of hazardous waste permanently buried there, and Niagara County is home to closed CECOS landfill in Niagara Falls. All must be monitored in perpetuity due to its potential to adversely impact public health and the environment. The additional discretion afforded to a siting board allowing them to consider closed landfills provides further rationale to deny any permit for a new or expanded hazardous waste landfill at CWM.
The final siting plan makes clear that CWM should not be granted a permit to expand their hazardous waste landfill. CCE, along with our state and local partners, are calling on CWM to withdraw their permit application. Continuing with this unnecessary permit application process will only waste valuable state resources and limited staff time.
updated by bsmith 10/21/10