Environmental Groups, Lawmakers and Businesses Pushing to Close State’s Largest Landfill by 2025

The Seneca Meadows Landfill. Photo courtesy of Seneca Lake Guardian

A coalition of state lawmakers, New York City Council members and environmental groups are calling on Gov. Kathy Hochul to close a landfill in the Finger Lakes while the owners hope for an extension and expansion on the landfill. 

On April 6, Assembly Member Anna Kelles and New York City Councilmember and Chair of the Sanitation Committee Sandy Nurse joined the environmental leaders to speak on Seneca Meadows landfill.

“New York City is one of the biggest contributors of garbage to the Seneca Meadows landfill, which means we have a responsibility to our upstate neighbors,” said New York City Councilmember Nurse. We must work to close the landfill by 2025 and New York City and state must work to create and implement a comprehensive, statewide zero-waste strategy.”

A quarter of the trash in Seneca Meadows is from New York City. 

A letter signed by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the New York Public Interest Research Group, the Sierra Club and Environmental Advocates New York urges the governor to close Seneca Meadows — the state’s largest landfill — on schedule in 2025 per a local ordinance. The letter is co-signed by 428 businesses and 21 coalitions.

Councilmember Nurse has been instrumental in reducing New York City’s waste so less of it is passed on to burden other communities like Seneca Falls.

Assembly Member Kelles, D-Ithaca, carries the PFAS Surface Water Discharge Disclosure Act in the Assembly (A.3296) and Senator Rachel May, D-Syracuse, carries the PFAS Surface Water Discharge Disclosure Act in the Senate (S.227A). 

This legislation would require all facilities permitted to discharge water like Seneca Meadows to test for Per- and Polyfluorinated Substances (PFAS). Landfills are one of four major sources of PFAS contamination, but there are currently no state regulations requiring PFAS disclosures from all facilities that might be discharging it.

“Solid waste landfills are a short-sighted solution with long-term impacts on our health and our environment. The Seneca Meadows landfill literally towers over the landscape, emitting methane gas and noxious odors into the air, as well as leaching PFAS into our soil and water,” Kelles said. “We need to close the landfill on schedule in 2025 and work toward long term waste management solutions. I’m committed to legislation that will curb the unsustainable rate of waste production as well as bring transparency to PFAS being discharged into our water supplies.”

Rob Hayes, who is the director of Clean Water at Environmental Advocates New York, fully supports the Kelles-May PFAS Surface Water Discharge Disclosure Act.

“The position of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is crystal clear: there is no safe level of exposure to Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA) or Perfluorooctane Sulfonate,” Hayes said. “Any discharge of toxic PFAS into our lakes, rivers, and drinking water sources is an unacceptable risk to human health. We need to know if leachate from landfills like Seneca Meadows contains dangerous carcinogens that are being released back into our most valuable resource.”

Waste Connections is the parent company of the Seneca Meadows Landfill. The company has requested that Governor Hochul expand their operation by another 47 acres, seven stories taller and expand their permit through 2040. The landfill is already the state’s largest at nearly 400 acres in size, nearly 30 stories tall and growing by 6,000 tons of waste daily — that equals 2,190,000 tons of waste per year.

“Waste Connections poses a public nuisance and health risk to the community,” said NYPIRG Environmental Policy Director Anne Rabe. Waste Connections currently operates another landfill in the city of Rensselaer which is next to a K-12 school. Landfills expose students to airborne particulates and unseen gasses that are linked to respiratory illness, asthma, and migraine headaches. 

“We call on the governor and DEC to uphold the law and deny any permit extension for the Seneca Meadows landfill,” Rabe said. “This 30-story skyscraper of a garbage dump should be shut down in 2025.”