CAYUTA, Sept. 16, 2020 — A proposal for a waste recycling facility near Alpine Junction that state regulators view as environmentally benign is drawing heavy fire from a local group that has helped mobilize successful opposition to two major industrial projects in the Finger Lakes.
Project owner Bob Mente of Newfield plans to handle up to 500 tons per day of municipal solid waste, construction and demolition debris and source-separated recyclables at a 7.49-acre site on Route 13 in Cayuta, the application says.
The proposed “materials recovery facility,” known as County Line MRF, would include a 10,575-square foot building, waste storage areas, a truck weighing scale and a wastewater storage tank. It would generate an estimated 184 truck trips per day, according to Mente’s application with the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
On Sept. 3, the DEC waived an environmental impact statement after declaring that the project “will result in no significant adverse impacts on the environment.”
Yvonne Taylor, a founder of Seneca Lake Guardian, said she was shocked by the agency’s ruling, and she has been trying to mobilize local opposition.
“I don’t know how (the DEC) can get away with saying there is no environmental impact,” Taylor said of the Cayuta project. “There’s going to be air impacts, light impacts, noise, vermin, traffic. It’s being sited above a (principal) aquifer on an archeologically sensitive site.”
In an interview Tuesday, Taylor also noted that Mente owns an adjacent parcel of about 75 acres, which she said could potentially be developed into a major landfill.
But Mente denied that the County Line MRF would ever expand to his property next door.
“That property is going to be a log cabin lodge” that will host hunters in small cabins, he said in an interview Tuesday. Mente added that he plans to live on the property himself.
Taylor expressed skepticism. “He’s got 80 acres of property right there,” she said. “Any entrepreneur goes into business to grow, to increase profits. It’s magical thinking to think he doesn’t have (expansion) in mind.”
Several years ago, Mente, through his company Alternative Waste Services, sought to develop a waste transfer facility about eight miles away on Bishop Road in Newfield. After the town board passed a moratorium on transfer stations, Mente sued, but he never completed his transfer station plan in Newfield.
Mente said Tuesday that a “materials recovery facility” is significantly different — and cleaner — than a waste transfer facility.
He described the process he plans for each load received in Cayuta: “You bring your materials in. You dump them on a tipping floor. You sort through them. You pull out all the recyclable material you possibly can. You reload the stuff in a tractor trailer and send it to a landfill.”
Mente insisted that every load would be screened and sorted.
“A transfer facility is a place where you go and dump and transfer (the waste) into a truck. You don’t do any recycling,” he said. “A materials recovery facility is where you recover materials out of the waste stream in order to have a lesser impact on the landfill.” A DEC document from 1990 spells out the characteristics of an MRF.
But Taylor questioned how much recycling would actually take place in Cayuta, and asserted that the proposed facility would be essentially a transfer point for waste headed to Seneca Meadows landfill in Waterloo and the Chemung County Landfill in Loman.
She said Seneca Lake Guardian was very concerned about added truck traffic.
“Trucks would turn onto Route 224 from Route 13 and proceed to Route 228, and thence to Route 96 to Route 414 North. Communities impacted by this additional truck traffic include: Alpine Junction, Odessa, Mecklenburg, Trumansburg, Covert, Interlaken, Ovid, Fayette, and Seneca Falls.
“Trucks could alternatively take Route 224 through Odessa to connect with Route 14, then turning onto Route 414, additionally impacting the communities of Montour Falls, Watkins Glen, Hector, Valois, Lodi, and points North,” SLG says on its website.
“The concern is the negative impact on tourism,” SLG continues, “and the VOCs created by diesel trucks and their negative impact on agriculture, particularly grapes. Trucks taking Route 13 South to the Chemung County Landfill will have to pass through the Village of Horseheads.”
The DEC all but dismissed the traffic concerns from the Cayuta project, writing: “Small additional impacts to transportation are anticipated as a result of this project.”
The agency’s notices on the Cayuta project contain several inconsistencies.
For example, the Sept. 3 negative declaration denying any significant environmental impact states that the lead agency in charge of regulating the project had not been determined. And yet, the all-important “Neg Dec” is signed by Guillermo Saar, an environmental analyst in the DEC’s Region 8 office in Avon, who is identified as “responsible officer in lead agency.”
Furthermore, the agency’s public Environmental Notice Bulletin dated Sept. 9 identified the “applicant” for the County Line MRF project as “Alternative Waste Services Inc., 71 Bishop Road, Newfield, New York.” But Mente said Tuesday that Casella Waste Services, Inc., had “bought the company out April 1.”
(In a followup interview Thursday — after this blog was first posted — Mente clarified his Tuesday statement, saying that Casella had only acquired certain assets of the company, but not it’s name. He said Casella bought “the customer lists, the dumpsters, the equipment and the trucks,” but not the company name nor its permits or real estate. “Alternative Waste Services is my company,” he said Thursday.)
A call Tuesday to AWS’s Bishop Road business phone number listed on Mente’s application had yielded an answering machine that said, “Thank you for calling Casella.”
Asked on Tuesday whether Casella had any participation or interest in the Cayuta project, Mente said: “They will have absolutely no role in this. This is my own venture. It is not a part of Casella.”
(Mente confirmed Thursday that Casella had no role in his County Line MRF proposal.)
Last year, Casella applied for an MRF permit in the Ontario County town of Stanley. According to the ENB, that facility was to handle “10,000 tons of waste for the initial 12-month period” — or an average of 27 tons per day.
The DEC waived an environmental impact statement for that project as well, and that negative declaration was also signed by Saar.
Casella also operates the Chemung County Landfill. In addition, it owns and operates the Hakes Landfill in Steuben County and the Hyland Landfill in Allegany County.
According to a social media report this week, Casella is quietly seeking to expand the Hyland Landfill by 107 acres.
In an email sent Monday, Concerned Citizens of Allegany County wrote the following:
“According to a recent edition of the Angelica Boosters News, Angelica town and village residents will vote on Nov. 3rd on the following proposition: ‘In accordance with the terms of the Amended Host Community Agreement between Hyland Facility Associates and the Town of Angelica, dated December 27, 1999, as amended in February 14, 2005, shall the Hyland Project be expanded to include an additional 107 acres of cell area, which will trigger increased host fees to the town and produce approximately $65,000,000 of additional revenue to the Town and approximately $13,000,000 of revenue to the Village of Angelica over the life of the facility?’”
According to the email, the Angelica Village Board has scheduled a special meeting for 7 p.m. today (Sept. 16) at Angelica Grange, 55 Park Circle, to hear a Casella presentation on the proposed expansion.
Casella vice president Larry Shilling did not return phone calls seeking comment on the Hyland and Cayuta projects before this story was originally posted.
(On Sept. 17 — the day after the original post — Shilling confirmed that Casella had purchased certain assets of AWS, including trucks, but not the name of the company or real estate. Asked if Casella had any role in the County Line MRF project Shilling said: “As far as I know we do not. I may not know 100 percent, but I think I would.” He also said that Casella did make a presentation Sept. 16 in Angelica about its plans to expand the Hyland Landfill. He said the company had not yet applied to the DEC for an expansion permit.)