The Journal Register (Medina, NY)

October 25, 2012

Piling on

By Jim Krencik
Medina Journal-Register

Medina Journal-Register — HOLLEY — Richard Penfold said at a public information meeting Tuesday that he hopes a “silent majority” of Town of Albion residents will greet his proposal to re-open and operate the former Orleans Sanitary Landfill with their support. That wasn’t the reception he received at Tuesday’s meeting, where the crowd at Hickory Ridge largely met a presentation on the benefits of a new landfill operation with vocal opposition to any future use of the Transit Road facility.

Penfold holds an option to purchase the shuttered landfill property, which he co-owns with the family of the late John Smith; and a ten-year NYDEC permit to operate it, which was granted to Waste Management in 2003 but returned to OSL after their lawsuit to force the opening of another landfill failed. He’s hopeful that a deal can be reached to open the site, but if one isn’t reached he won’t darken the town’s doorstop for long, as the DEC permit — and his interest in the site — will run out next November.

“If they tell me to get lost, I’ll go,” Penfold said.

Almost all of those who participated in a question-and-answer session predicted that would be the message he’d receive.

“Save yourself a lot of time and money ... forget it,” former Supervisor Ted Scharping said.

Penfold told a group of more than five dozen residents that the decision on whether to proceed with plans for Albion Recycling & Recovery, LLC depend largely on the Albion Town Board, to whom he is submitting an application for a new landfill in the next few weeks. If the board is willing to remove an anti-landfill provision in the town’s code enacted in 1996, he’d sign a host agreement to provide for more than $1 million in annual economic benefits in the form of tax reductions, tipping fees, electricity from methane, and other incentives.

“I can transform this liability into an asset for New York state and the town,” said Penfold, who operated the CID landfill in Sardinia from 1977 to 1998.

Supervisor Dennis Stirk and other members of the town board have voiced in recent meetings that they do not support changing the anti-landfill provision. Councilman Matt Passarell, the only town board member present at the meeting, said his opinion wasn’t swayed by Penfold’s presentation.

“When waste goes into the ground, it doesn’t leave,” Passarell, who opposes more landfill development, said. “No amount of money will make it go away. The payments will run out, but the trash stays.”

Penfold said the OSL site, despite not operating for nearly two decades, is attractive because it is the only permitted landfill in New York that is not in use; and because the studies of the site have shown that there is not any ground water pollution.

That drew perhaps the largest contrast from the plan’s opponents.

“(The site) is all fractured bed rock and it’s surrounded by quarries,” Stop Polluting Orleans County Chairwoman Kim Remley said. “It’s not a good site for a landfill — It’s a horrible site.”

”I’m sick to think you’re anticipating doing this,” Mayor Dean Theodorakos said.

Penfold stressed to the gathering that he would operate a “first-class” operation in Albion, complying with both environmental regulations and terms hammered out with the town — an offer to not take hydrofracturing materials was made. He told the crowd is neither Smith, who lost the permit to operate the landfill after exceeding intake limits; nor is he Waste Management, who he said did not treat the town the right way.

”I have a good reputation ... ask Sardinia, I’m a straight shooter,” Penfold said. “I have the money and I’m willing to take on the responsibility.”

The OSL site is located to the south of the Erie Canal on the town’s eastern end and bounded by several roadways. It opened in 1983 and operated until going bankrupt in 1991, with a few months of operation in 1992.

A post-closure trust fund to manage the facility ran out in 2009, ending regular testing and pumping of leachate, the liquid produced by landfill waste. Penfold said that represents a greater danger to the town’s finances and the area’s environment that his maintenance of a new landfill would bring.

Penfold said he expects that repairs to the site would cost about $600,000 an acre, with site work likely keeping any operation from starting until 2014. His intention is to bringing in 400,000 to 500,000 tons annually, less than WM proposed in their Environmental Impact Statement a decade ago, with local municipalities becoming customers once their current agreements with other sites expire.

”(In Sardinia) I was the largest user of my site, except for two years when we contracted with the City of Rochester,” Penfold explained. “I made sure I had enough waste to operate the site.”

Not all of the attendees opposed the plan. Several residents chatted amiably with Penfold following a question-and-answer session. Steve Howard, who lives about a mile from the site, said he’s “not afraid” about the plan.

”You all need to sit back and what this can do,” Howard said. “We could all benefit.”

Penfold said he was optimistic about the overall support his plan would have, despite the reaction of forum attendees, if the town’s residents understood what the renewed landfilling operation could bring beyond the trucks hauling in trash and waste.

”I realize I’d have anti-landfill people here,” Penfold said. “I know it’s not a popular business, but if your concern is pollution ... we can build it so that it don’t pollute the environment.”

Residents took plenty away from the meeting. Remley said SPOC would keep up its public campaign, but she couldn’t help to notice that Penfold’s phrasing echoed that of former town Supervisor Donald Brace, who was defeated when an anti-landfill slate of candidates was swept into office in 1995.

”That’s exactly what Don Brace said, ‘there’s a silent majority’ in support of the landfill,” Remley said.

ON THE WEB • Albion Recycling & Recovery--albionrr.com • SPOC -- stoppollutingorleanscounty.com

Contact reporter Jim Krencik at 798-1400, ext. 6327.