Dominick Calsolaro

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Three issues to weigh before expanding landfill

Opinion Section, Times Union

Published on 3/17/2007 by the Times Union written by DOMINICK CALSOLARO

First, establish a regional landfill authority to replace the Capital Region Solid Waste Management Partnership (the current name for the ANSWERS consortium, though many still call it ANSWERS). The partnership includes 12 municipalities that dispose of trash in the landfill. No single member of the partnership should be totally responsible for providing and managing the landfill, nor should it be the sole recipient of any financial benefit derived from landfill operations.

There are at least 16 solid-waste management authorities and/or resource recovery agencies established under that law. Many of them include multiple municipalities, just like ANSWERS. Creation of a Capital Region Solid Waste Management Authority would have many advantages over the present system.

A regional authority would help to rectify the Department of Environmental Conservation's misguided approval first of the Greater Albany Landfill and then of numerous expansions in the environmentally sensitive Pine Bush Preserve. It could find a suitable place somewhere in the larger ANSWERS consortium land area to site a landfill.

Second, consider the landfill's economic impact. Albany has grown dependent on landfill revenue to balance its budget. If that is one reason the city is requesting the landfill expansion, then DEC should require an economic impact study be undertaken as part of its process. The economic impact of tourists coming to the Capital Region to visit the sand dunes and scrub oak, possibly see a Karner Blue butterfly, or just enjoy a hike in a nature preserve must be studied against the "profit" the city says it makes in operating the landfill.

The landfill's life could be extended by better enforcement of the city's present recycling regulations and increasing the types of plastic that must be recycled. It also could be extended if more items were salvaged for reuse, rather than just dumped. Both recycling and reuse would reduce the amount of trash the landfill must handle.

These are all issues the DEC must consider before any further expansion of the landfill is allowed to go forward.

Dominick Calsolaro represents the 1st Ward on the Albany Common Council.
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