If Perinton officials have their way, the amount of New York City trash that Waste Management could legally dump at the High Acres Landfill would be cut in half under a proposed agreement between the company and the town.
In practical terms, the deal, if agreed to by the company, would mean the landfill would take in roughly 100,000 fewer tons of trash than it did last year, according to town officials.
Capping the amount of trash from New York City transported to High Acres by rail is one component of an eight-point odor control plan developed by the town for High Acres, which extends into neighboring Macedon. Perinton officials have included the anti-odor plan in their draft of a new host community agreement, which they said they will soon start negotiating with Waste Management.
The landfill stench has plagued its neighbors periodically since 2017, and has been attributed to weather, to work done on the site, and to the New York City garbage.
“This new agreement will take the benefits provided to our residents to a new level of protection and accountability, and a renewed focus on environmental sustainability,” Perinton Supervisor Ciaran Hanna said Monday during a news conference at the Perinton Community Center.
Perinton’s current host community agreement with Waste Management expired in 2018, and the two parties have since worked under a month-to-month agreement.
Under its permits with the state, Waste Management is currently allowed to dump up to 1,075,000 tons of trash brought in by rail, but the company has not reached that threshold in some time, according to the town.
Fresh Air for the Eastside, a trash mitigation advocacy group made up of town residents that formed several years ago in response to the landfill odors, estimates the company brought in 646,000 tons of trash from New York City to the landfill last year and that the tonnage accounted for 90% of municipal solid waste dumped there in 2020.
The town worked with the state Department of Environmental Conservation to “assess and evaluate everything about High Acres Landfill” after the 2017 odor problems, Hanna said. They looked at the landfill’s operational practices, past and present maintenance activities, incoming waste streams, odor causes and complaint response methods, and community engagement.
Waste Management installed additional wells for gas collection and made operational changes around ground cover placement, screening incoming waste, and flaring gas, according to Hanna.
“All parties, including Waste Management, agreed that things could not continue as they were and that operational and maintenance improvements were needed,” Hanna said.
Odor emanating from the landfill and Waste Management's acceptance of trash from New York City has been a thorny issue for Perinton officials for several years, ever since Fresh Air for the Eastside mounted a grassroots campaign to address the matters and, ultimately, close the portion of the dump situated in Perinton.
"While we are encouraged that the town of Perinton is finally addressing the expired host community agreement, we are disappointed that the town is not seeking the permanent capping and closing of the Perinton side of High Acres, which continues to release fugitive landfill gas into the community at an unacceptable rate," Gary McNeil, the president of the group, said in a statement.
McNeil questioned the details of the proposed deal, specifically provisions in the agreement that outline its "Property Protection Program" and its odor verification and mitigation process.
"We look forward to providing our comments to the town in hopes of having the draft agreement updated as the town negotiates with Waste Management," McNeil said.
A waste characterization study conducted in 2018 by Perinton and the Department of Environmental Conservation also pointed to biosolids, a byproduct of treating sewage, coming from Monroe County’s Van Lare wastewater treatment plant as a key source of odor.
Starting immediately, the county will reduce the amount of biosolids it sends from Van Lare to High Acres by 25%, County Executive Adam Bello said during the news conference.
Under the proposed agreement, Waste Management would also work with Perinton officials to set up a pilot residential food waste composting program for the town. High Acres already has such a program for Nazareth and St. John Fisher colleges, as well as the University of Rochester, which Perinton would likely join, Hanna explained.
The draft proposal would establish a citizens advisory group for the landfill and a property value protection program. It also calls for an increase in royalty payments made to the town.
“All of these new efforts will benefit the residents here in the town of Perinton and are a step in the right direction to make a difference for those who reside near High Acres,” Bello said.
The draft agreement is available on the town’s website and officials are accepting public feedback on the proposal through May 3.
Jeremy Moule is CITY's news editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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