State will test groundwater at OSL

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 29 July 2013 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers – The former McKenna and Orleans Sanitary landfills were built next to the Erie Canal in Albion, between Densmore and Transit roads.

ALBION – State and local environmental officials should soon have some answers about the contaminants – if there are any – in the Orleans Sanitary Landfill.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation will do a comprehensive test of groundwater at about 25 spots on the 35-acre OSL, which closed about 20 years ago. The DEC also will test water at the manholes were the landfill was being pumped.

A fund that paid to have leachate – garbage juice – pumped, hauled and treated at the Albion sewer plant was depleted in 2009. Since then, the landfill hasn’t been pumped.

Local and state officials want to know if the water at the site is dangerous, just in case the liner fails or the water spreads off site.

The DEC has hired a contractor to sample water for metals, volatile hydrocarbons, turbidity and other characteristics.

“When you test at a landfill there’s not any one thing you’re looking for,” said Dan Schuth, manager of the Soil and Water Conservation District in Orleans County.

The site was built to accept municipal waste so there shouldn’t be dangerous chemicals and pollution at OSL. However, a previous operator was fined for accepting garbage after hours.

“They will do a broad test of the water so we know what’s there in case it leaches out,” Schuth said.

He credited local state legislators for pressing the issue with the DEC to do the testing. A local citizens’ group, Stop Polluting Orleans County, also has been lobbying for the testing and for maintenance at the site.

A closed gate near Transit Road blocks access to the McKenna Landfill, which is a Superfund site. Neither McKenna or the Orleans Sanitary Landfill are currently being pumped of leachate.

Not only is OSL no longer being pumped, but the neighboring McKenna Landfill, an 18-acre site that is on the Superfund, also stopped being pumped about two months ago. The site will continue to have monitoring wells checked, Schuth said.

The state DEC wants to study the water quality at McKenna over a year to see if it’s necessary to continue pumping the leachate from the landfill and having it treated off site.

Albion town officials have been approached by Richard Penfold from Blasdell about a new landfill in the community, a project that was first proposed by Waste Management in the mid-1990s. The DEC approved a permit for Waste Management, but the Town Board later rejected the project, a decision that was upheld in court.

As part of its proposal for a new 78-acre landfill, Waste Management offered to take care of OSL and McKenna. Waste Management was leasing the property from John and Irene Smith, the former OSL owners, but that lease ended in 2011 and the site is back in the hands of the Smith’s bankrupt estate.

Ongoing care for the landfill should fall on the owners, DEC officials have said, but the Smiths declared bankruptcy.