Cortland County Lawmakers Approve 1st Step in Trash to Ash Plan
Amid heated debate and concerns from members of the public a plan to trade Cortland County’s trash for Onondaga County’s incinerator ash took a small step forward last night. Lawmakers voted to begin the environmental review process and design of a required trash transfer station.
In a 15 to 4 vote with Republicans Susan Briggs, Don Boyden, George Wagner, and Newell Wilcox all voting no, the Cortland County Legislature approved spending over $250 thousand dollars to hire consultants from engineering firm Barton & Loguidice to study the environmental impacts associated with accepting the incinerator ash and trucking Cortland County’s garbage to Onondaga County.
Prior to the vote a handful of community members expressed their disapproval of the plan, some raised fears of the potential environmental impacts associated with the ash.
One speaker, Todd Miller of Solon raised concerns that the ash has not been fully tested since 1995 because the D-E-C has waived some of the tests, he feels the ash should be retested to confirm previous results.
Republican Majority leader Susan Briggs was one of the most vocal opponents of the plan; she questioned why Cortland County is gambling with a quarter of a million dollars in taxpayer funds without a firm commitment from Onondaga County that this plan will go forward.
In order for the proposal to work both counties must amend solid waste laws, Cortland County must also revise its landfill permit and construct a million dollar transfer station for project to move ahead.
Supporters like Legislative Chair Mike Park say this move could help solve financial problems associated with the Cortland County landfill, the landfill is on track to lose up to $31 million dollars over the next 20 years due to shrinking trash volumes, state mandates, and operating expenses. Park says he wants to move forward with the environmental review and preliminary design of the transfer station not only to meet Onondaga’s 2015 deadline but also to get answers to the environmental concerns that have been raised.
Approximately 23 thousand tons of trash generated in Cortland County would be shipped to the Onondaga County incinerator; in exchange approximately 86 thousand tons of incinerator ash would be shipped back to the Cortland County landfill. The partnership has the potential to generate $500 thousand dollars a year for Onondaga County and a million dollars a year for Cortland County.
The proposal means 20 additional trucks a day headed to the landfill. The ash is tested before it’s brought into Cortland County and is regulated by the D-E-C. If the proposal moves forward the useful life of the landfill would drop from 25 years to 18 years.
It was revealed last night that the review process will take about a year, if the partnership falls through the review could be stopped and the county will only be billed for the work that has been done.