Nasty, noisy dump next to public school is unsafe

To the Editor:

It is disturbing how negligent the state government is at protecting Rensselaer and East Greenbush residents from Waste Connections’ Dunn construction and demolition debris and who-knows-what-else dump that borders the Rensselaer public school campus.

The state’s Department of Environmental Conservation, with the silent complicity of the governor, attorney general, state legislature, and state health department, has allowed a nasty, noisy, and often stinky dump to operate for nearly a decade next to where more than 100 staff are trying to help 1,000 children get an education.

Truck traffic to and from the dump clogs downtown Rensselaer streets. Tractor trailers violate vehicle and traffic laws, damage and dirty the streets, poison the air, and are far too loud. Dump leachate poisons the Hudson River. The dump’s permit expired nearly two years ago.

The state government pretends the many problems with the dump are not serious enough to force immediate closure. As usual, recklessly disposing of waste materials and protecting corporate profits trump public health and environmental protection.

Elected state officials and agency commissioners falsely assert their best-in-the-nation environmental health policies. The DEC brags about how it operates transparently while providing virtually no information to the public.

At a January 16, 2019 meeting that I attended among DEC’s top brass, including the new interim commissioner, Sean Mahar, and dump opponents, a Rensselaer woman introduced her middle-school son.  He said there was a loud noise from the dump earlier that day while he tried to take a reading test; he often smelled odors in the school that resembled cow manure and rotten eggs, and said lots of kids were getting sick.

The DEC twice declined to answer a question from his mom: What advice can the DEC offer about sending her son to the Rensselaer public school? She said she could not afford a private school and was required by law to send him to school, but feared each day for his health and safety. She said she has been in the school and can smell the odors inside and outside the building.

Nor did the DEC respond when I asked them to respond to her question. The DEC also had no response when I asked if it is safe for children to attend the school 180 days a year, year after year.

During the meeting, Mr. Mahar said the DEC takes “your concerns seriously,” and “we want to make changes,” and the DEC continues to monitor and inspect the dump. He said the DEC pays more attention to this facility than most others.

Most of us, including Mr. Mahar, met again on Sept. 18, 2019. The boy’s mom asked the DEC to answer the unanswered question from the January meeting: What can she do to protect her son at the school from the dump operations?

Later in the meeting, the DEC regional director said, “We have no health and safety concerns” or evidence at this time.

A few minutes later, Mr. Mahar said, “We do not say the dump is safe. We are not medical professionals.  We work with the state health department.”

Waste Connections desires to keep its Dunn dump open for many more years while much of the public thinks it is insane to allow a dump to operate next to a school for even one more day.


Tom Ellis


Editor’s note: A spokesperson for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation said that all environmental permit applications are subject to a “rigorous and transparent review process,” and, in the case of the Dunn Landfill, the DEC received over 250 written and oral comments. Dunn Landfill has given its response and proposed modifications as a result of the hearing, which the department is currently reviewing, the spokesperson said.

“The current Solid Waste and Mined Land Reclamation permits for the Dunn facility expired in July 2022 and are administratively extended pursuant to Section 401(2) of the State Administrative Procedures Act (SAPA) pending DEC’s ongoing review of the renewal application,” the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson also offered the following statement: “Throughout the last five years, DEC has worked to uphold its commitments to the community and state environmental laws and repeatedly acted to require actions at the facility that reduced the potential for off-site impacts by requiring Dunn to improve the collection of gas and cover waste, as well as to establish protocols to help ensure prompt investigations upon receiving reports to a complaint hotline (518-292-0449). DEC will continue to be responsive to community concerns and is committed to ensuring the Dunn landfill complies with all permit and enforcement requirements in place to protect the environment and surrounding community.

“Details about DEC’s extensive monitoring, sampling, findings, and enforcement actions, along with pertinent information about DEC’s ongoing commitment to ensuring the health and safety of the area can be found at DEC’s website: Dunn Landfill - NYSDEC

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