To help construct the Seneca Meadows landfill so that it can hold up to 6,000 tons a day of other people’s trash that Seneca Meadows, Inc. brings to our area (99% of which is imported from outside our county), Seneca Meadows, Inc. has proposed digging up the soil on the north side of Waterloo, NY—about 3.4 million cubic yards of it, up to 45 feet deep—from portions of a 120-acre parcel of farmland located directly across the road from Waterloo, NY village residents, a middle/high school, and three Little League ball fields.
(Note: As landfills grow in size, they are required by environmental regulation to place cover material—traditionally perfectly good, healthy soil—on top of each layer of garbage.)
Called, ironically enough, the “Meadow View” mine, this is a major industrial excavation project that is expected to last 11 years, operate up to 12 hours a day, and take up to 12 years to fully reclaim (i.e., total project time = 23 years).
That translates into approximately 2,888 tons of CO2 (and other potentially toxic gases) as well as 10.7 tons of particulate matter (soot) per year (CCSC believes that the actual amounts would be much higher) that will be concentrated in a ¼ mile area in close proximity to residences and approximately 1000 ft away from the Jrunior/Senior High School complex and Little League fields, not to mention just 75 feet from the nearest property. (See map at end of this section.)
The DEC declared that this mine will have a significant environmental impact on the surrounding area.
In recognition of this impact, the DEC, in August of 2009, held what is called a “scoping” meeting to gather public input.
At that meeting, more than 100 people attended, and 20 or more spoke – all against the clay mine.
The Finger Lakes Times, our local paper, stated: “Citizen after citizen cited problem after problem with a proposed mining site used to gather topsoil and clay for the Seneca Meadows landfill.”
Since that time, concerned citizens have been meeting twice a month at the Seneca County Building’s Office for the Aging and petitioning our locally elected representatives for support.
However, We the People have not been listened to.
Many Waterloo residents feel they have lost their fundamental right of local control and self-government to a corporate few who believe they are empowered to override the wishes of the majority of citizens.
As a result, Seneca Meadows/IESI’s draft Environmental Impact Statement (dEIS) and request for a local permit to start mining may be accepted by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
To those of us who live near this project, we have had just one response: unacceptable. Large-scale industrial mining does not belong next to residential properties.
During the past 3 years, we have therefore:
- Gathered over 1500 signatures against the mine and submitted them to the DEC;
- Held numerous fundraisers to gather funds in order to seek professional and legal advice to fight the mining project;
- Attended and spoken at numerous Town and County Board meetings, explaining why this project is bad for the Town of Waterloo;
- Written numerous letters to the DEC against the project;
- Retained an attorney as well as air and water quality experts;
- Sought (wrote) and obtained multiple grants to support our endeavors;
- Supported the campaigns of local citizens who were successfully elected to the Waterloo Town Board;
- Participated (with full party status) in a Legislative Hearing and Issues Conference with the DEC regarding 18 separate issues relating to the mine.
Note: A legislative hearing is a chance for the public to present unsworn written or oral statements; whereas, an issues conference is designed to identify the parties to the proceeding and hear argument about whether disputed issues of fact should be adjudicated.
In March of 2012, the DEC judge agreed with us that “an issue exists as to whether a sufficient analysis of fine particulate matter has been performed, consistent with DEC policy.”
So, in the summer of 2012, we participated in yet another DEC hearing, called an Adjudicatory Hearing, in which we formally challenged Seneca Meadows’ dEIS as being both incomplete and in error with respect to airborne particulates.
CCSC spent many hundreds of hours in preparing for, and participating in, this hearing, which included filings of pre- and post-hearing memorandums and hundreds of hours devoted to research and case preparation, including the hiring of a Certified Professional Geologist (hydrologist), attorney and professional witnesses; though, ultimately, CCSC appeared pro se and our chief expert witness volunteered her time free of charge.
The contention of CCSC’s chief witness was that the 15 ton per year PM-10 (PM=particulate matter) threshold for this project, set by the DEC, would be exceeded and that Seneca Meadows had understated and/or not properly counted air particulates smaller than PM-10 in size, particularly PM-2.5—and that local residents would therefore be put at unacceptable risk.
(Note: Unacceptable risk is described by a growing body of evidence which links chronic exposure to particulate matter (PM) with increased risk for a variety of heart, lung, and respiratory diseases and, therefore, mortality. See http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1314964/ as an example.)
Among several other key points, we told the judge that the EPA concluded, after a review of particulate studies, in a judgment that has now been upheld by the courts, that exposure to PM2.5 can result in serious health consequences, including premature death; that New York State's Appellate Division’s decision in Uprose v. Power Authority of the State of the New York [124 285 A.D.2d 603, 729 N.Y.S.2d 42 (2d Dep’t)] required that a “hard look” be taken at potential PM2.5 impacts; and that this same case also stated that PM2.5 is a non-threshold pollutant—that is, a pollutant that may cause adverse health effects at any non-zero concentration level.
As of January 31st, 2013, we are still awaiting the judge's answer.
A Word on our Town’s previous government—the "Mooney Administration"
The clay mining project is one of our Town’s (Waterloo’s) “give-aways” to Seneca Meadows agreed to in the Town’s 2005 “Community Benefits Agreement” (CBA) with Seneca Meadows, Inc.
(Note: A CBA is an enforceable contract negotiated by a developer—in this case, Seneca Meadows—and the community in and around where the proposed development is to take place—in this case, the Town of Waterloo.)
The CBA was signed by then Town of Waterloo Supervisor James Mooney without holding a public hearing to inform or consult the residents of Waterloo.
Local residents had no announced opportunity to give their inputs on the tradeoffs that were made in that agreement in 2005, and most residents today still don’t know what was traded in that agreement (in exchange for payments by SMI to the town of over $9M in an 18-year period).
Interestingly, a map that was referenced in this agreement as Appendix F, showing the exact location of the clay mine, didn’t show up at the Town clerk’s office until four years after the CBA was signed (according to the date-stamp that appears on Appendix F).
More importantly, the CBA prevents the town from speaking out not just against the mine, but landfill expansion in general and, in so doing, effectively forfeits the Town’s right to protect its citizens from potential health, safety and environmental dangers that could potentially harm them, their children, and future generations.
Note: CCSC and others believe this agreement is unenforceable for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that it is against public policy.
Further Note: In a 1988 report that continues to reflect the issues surrounding CBAs, the New York City Bar Association cautioned that: “The ad hoc payment of money or services in return for favorable government action also adversely affects the decision-making process. In egregious cases, the decision-maker is corrupted . . . Thus integrity is eroded, of the government in general and of the zoning laws and land use regulations in particular.”
Why the Protest Pics, Above? —Ans: the "Mooney Administration," again
On August 31, 2010, at a public hearing, local citizens (as represented by 1500 signed petitions and upwards of 200 attendees) spoke against the “Meadow View Mine” project. They urged the Waterloo town board to stand firm on its existing Town mining law which, in requiring a 1000-foot setback from residences, would have effectively nullified Seneca Meadows’ proposed 120-acre mining project.
The Supervisor in charge of the hearing, James Mooney, said he would honor the 1000-foot setback when the time came to do so, as he again implied in November 17, 2010 (quoted in the Finger Lakes Times) when he said “. . . [we] will do what we said at the August 31 meeting and notify the DEC what we feel is an appropriate setback from property boundaries.”
However, Supervisor Mooney did not follow through on this promise. Instead, on July 19, 2011, Mooney announced his intention (in the form of a resolution) to repeal the Town’s mining law altogether, so the Town (that is, the currently elected Town government) wouldn't have to abide by any portion of it for any reason!
(Note: The resolution would repeal 9 pages of law that were put in place 11 years previously that formed the basis of the Town of Waterloo’s broad authority to enact zoning ordinances and other land use controls which regulate the location and impacts of mines, including the authority to determine whether mining will be allowed at all.)
As justification for his repeal, Supervisor Mooney read aloud from a 2-page opinion letter sent to him from the law firm that represents the landfill company, Seneca Meadows!
On the day the vote was scheduled (August 16, 2011), Concerned Citizens of Seneca County engaged in a peaceful PROTEST/DEMONSTRATION of this proposed resolution. They met behind the Waterloo Town Hall (at 66 Virginia St.) and marched from Town Hall on Virginia Street to downtown Waterloo, the intersection of Route 5&20 (Main St.) and Route 96 (Virginia St.).
The resolution to repeal the Town’s mining law was ultimately repealed, itself—but not without a major protest effort, as evidenced by the pictures shown above.
A Final Word on Mining Our Soil for Building Mountains of Trash
As we stated in our brochure on this subject, industrial mining of this kind brings no significant economic benefits to a community – it's a highly automated industry with no fixed plant, so we can expect few new jobs and little additional tax revenue from the proposed mining project.
However, what we can expect is noise, vibration, dust, traffic, visual impacts, health issues, declining property values . . . and more mines, if this one successfully penetrates our zoning restrictions.
What’s more, we can also expect vast imports of trash to be dumped on us for decades yet to come, which is extra troubling knowing that
- Up to 90% of the municipal waste stream is reusable, recyclable or compostable
- Better and safer alternatives for building economic growth have already been demonstrated by other communities
See map of proposed clay mine, below.
Note: The black dots represent residential dwellings; the yellow highlighted portions represent extra close proximity of properties to the proposed mining area, such as the Lemmon property, a private residence which is only 75 feet away.
Note also: The mine access road that crosses Burgess Road. According to a January 23, 2009 letter on behalf of Seneca Meadows, Inc., the maximum number of trips per hour for trucks crossing Burgess Road from the mine to the landfill is estimated to be 42 trips (84 crossings). That’s approximately one crossing every 43 seconds coming from this private entry/exit — an amount of traffic that we believe will effectively shut down public access to this public (county) highway.