Dominick Calsolaro

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Talking trash, again, at the port

Recycling center owner renews try for state OK to handle garbage

Published on 10/22/2009 by the Times Union written by BRIAN NEARING, Staff writer, Times Union

ALBANY -- The owner of a recycling center at the Port of Albany is making another attempt to get state permission to handle garbage.
Waste Management of New York LLC wants permission from the state Department of Environmental Conservation to receive up to 749 tons a day of municipal solid waste at its recycling center on Church Street at the port, according to an application filed in March with the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

"I can't believe they are trying this again," said Common Council member Dominick Calsolaro, a First Ward Democrat from the South End whose district is next to the port. "I have a lot of problems with this. It will mean a lot of garbage trucks driving through city streets, along with risks of vermin, odors and birds."

Parent company Waste Management Inc. is one of the largest haulers of household garbage in the U.S. and the Capital Region. In 1999, when the company last sought to import garbage to the port, the idea drew vocal opposition from local residents and political leaders. DEC rejected the proposal because the company did not have city approval.

Since opening its port facility in 1996, the company has been able to accept only construction and demolition debris, as well as recyclable commercial materials, limited to 749 tons a day. The material is later trucked to other disposal sites.

Waste Management takes most household garbage that it collects locally to the second-largest dump in the state, the company-owned High Acres landfill, near Rochester.

Calsolaro questioned the company's good faith in light of a $5,000 fine paid to DEC in June, a month after a state inspector saw leaking garbage being dumped from a truck at the port facility. The garbage had been picked up at a rest stop at the state Thruway.

"After being caught by DEC only a few months after they filed their application, it boggles my mind that DEC might give them the OK," he said. "The first time that they get caught doing this just happens to be the day when the state inspector shows up unannounced? That defies belief."

Both Casolaro and Common Council member Carolyn McLaughlin, who represents the Second Ward, which includes the port, said the city Board of Zoning Appeals had voted earlier this year to reject the company's proposal to truck household garbage through the port.

"We hope this proposal gets the kind of discussion that the recent expansion of the city landfill in the Pine Bush got," said McLaughlin.

Waste Management's application does not indicate where household garbage would come from, or where it would end up. Those questions are not part of a state review of the request, said DEC regional spokesman Rick Georgeson.

The 749-tons-a-day limit is a substantial figure, the equivalent of about three-quarters of the garbage legally allowed to come into the city's Rapp Road dump on a daily basis. Dozens of garbage trucks enter Rapp Road each day.

Company District Manager Ken Bevis was unable to comment Wednesday.

The recycling center is located in a state "environmental justice area," which requires additional steps from Waste Management to inform residents of the proposal. Environmental justice areas are in primarily low-income and predominantly minority communities that traditionally have borne the brunt of environmental impacts from being used as dumping grounds for pollution.

The company is holding a public meeting on the proposal at 6 p.m. Nov. 5 at the offices of the Albany Housing Authority, according to flyers mailed out last weekend.

A copy of the permit application is available online at the Waste Management Website at http://www.wm.com/wm/albany/

Brian Nearing can be reached at 454-5094 or by email at bnearing@timesunion.com.