Facts About Seneca Meadows Inc.
You may have seen some of the myths below about the Seneca Meadows landfill—typically repeated as if they are facts by a small group of vocal opponents. Seneca Meadows is proud to be part of the Seneca Falls and Waterloo communities and has always been fully transparent about its facility. Seneca Meadows regularly meets with local community members and officials, including presenting updates on facility operations at Seneca Falls Town Board meetings. The vast majority of our neighbors know this. We believe it’s important for everyone to understand the actual facts about Seneca Meadows.
Myth: “SMI allows trucks all through the night after closed hours to sit and rot with their stench over night before filling during operating hours.”
Fact: Trucks are allowed to enter the site outside of the facility’s operating hours because this is a sound operational and environmental practice. These trucks are staged in areas with 24-hour, state of the art odor neutralizing equipment. Additionally, a NY State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) representative is present on-site throughout the week to ensure that we are meeting and/or exceeding the current regulatory requirements. These trucks are not causing a stench or any other air quality issue. There is no logic to denying trucks entry in this manner. If denied entry to the site, these trucks would be forced to find alternative offsite locations in and around Seneca Falls and Waterloo to remain overnight. This in turn would cause significant additional local truck traffic in the early morning hours resulting in unnecessary traffic congestion and air pollution.
Myth: “Based on the latest available information, expanding the landfill could produce over 1 billion pounds of greenhouse gasses per year over the next 15 years even if it is operated properly.”
Fact: Allowing an expansion in the center of the landfill property (away from property boundaries) will not lead to significant increases of greenhouse gas emissions from the facility. In fact, Seneca Meadows’ collection and landfill gas to energy processes ensure the proper management of gases like methane and prevent these substances from being released freely into the air. Failure to permit the expansion would drive up the exportation of waste, which would increase greenhouse gas emissions by, among other things, forcing longer truck trips to alternative waste disposal sites, likely out-of-state. This would be completely contrary to State goals and policies. For example, New York’s Solid Waste Management Plan recognizes the continued importance of landfilling in the solid waste management hierarchy and rightly views exportation of waste out-of-state as “problematic and potentially unreliable” and contrary to the “principles of sustainability and responsibility.” Similarly, New York’s Climate Law explicitly rejects ‘leakage’ of greenhouse gas emissions to other states as an appropriate means of meeting our climate goals. When it comes to our climate change challenges, sending our problem somewhere else is not a solution.
Myths: “The landfill also exposes local residents to airborne particulates and unseen gasses that are known to contribute to respiratory illness, asthma, and migraine headaches.” “SMI is located two miles from Cayuga-Seneca Canal and three miles from every school in Seneca Falls and Waterloo, exposing students to airborne particulates and unseen gasses known to contribute to respiratory illness, asthma, and migraine headaches.”
Fact: Allegations of harmful health effects due to Seneca Meadows are false. NYSDEC has conducted multiple area community air screening programs in cooperation with local community groups and residents. After the most recent sampling event in 2019, NYSDEC issued a Community Air Screening Program Report based on air samples collected around Seneca Meadows and analyzed by NYSDEC’s laboratory. The report concluded that the results “would not be considered a potential health threat or an immediate public health concern” and noted that “all results were similar to concentrations found in NYSDEC’s ambient air monitoring network.” Further, Seneca Meadows is fully transparent about reported odor complaints, its odor investigations and responses to those complaints, as it submits monthly odor reports to NYSDEC and the Town of Seneca Falls.
Myth: “Seneca Meadows landfill is poisoning our water and air, while pumping a putrid odor far and wide and threatening our $3 billion, 60,000 job agritourism industry in the Finger Lakes.”
Fact: Seneca Meadows has had no impact on local tourism or agritourism. A 2022 State Report focusing on tourism activity in the Finger Lakes region confirms that the Finger Lakes region has recovered from impacts to tourism due to COVID-19, and traveler expenditures in Seneca County are ahead of the Finger Lakes average. The same report explains that while there has been a strong recovery in spending, jobs in this sector have lagged due to post-COVID-19 trends that have broadly affected tourism-centric industries, which has nothing to do with Seneca Meadows. That said, Seneca County’s tourism jobs have outperformed many other counties in the Finger Lakes region as a share of the total work force. Similarly, in 2019, the Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance reported that Seneca was the top county in the region for tourism in the Finger Lakes region, accounting for 11% of visitors.
Evidence of thriving tourism and agritourism in Seneca County is overwhelming:
- A February 2022 Report from the Seneca County Board of Supervisors and the Seneca County Agricultural Enhancement Board not only confirms that agriculture “has been and continues to be a mainstay of the Seneca County economy,” it explains that 5% of farms in the county earn income through agritourism. The same report lists the 14 primary challenges to agriculture in the area, none of which include Seneca Meadows.
- In 2019, the Genesee/Finger Lakes Regional Planning Council reported that tourism revenue in Seneca County had increased more since 2005 (by 86%) than any other county in the region.
- A 2019 news article discussing a Seneca County Chamber of Commerce presentation noted that 4.8 million visitors came to the Finger Lakes Region, and Seneca County saw 11% of all visitation traffic, the most among the 14-county region.
Myths: “Leachate and wastewater runoff from the landfill contain per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which can cause widespread contamination of drinking water and harmful health impacts.” “Millions of gallons of leachate that the landfill produces annually get discharged to Seneca Falls, Governor Hochul’s home city of Buffalo, Watertown, Steuben County and other communities where it is dumped into drinking water sources, threatening many NY communities.”
Fact: Leachate generated at Seneca Meadows does not pose a threat to community health or drinking water supply. Seneca Meadows goes above and beyond compliance with all state and local laws and requirements governing leachate disposal. In fact, before leachate is discharged to the Seneca Falls sewer system, it is pretreated to remove PFAS using a state-of-the-art biological and reverse osmosis process, a process that is not mandated by any law or regulation. Sampling data of the facility’s discharges confirm that the process is extremely effective. This PFAS removal technology has been effective, and results have been shared with the Town of Seneca Falls.
It is noteworthy that upon further investigation of potential sources of PFAS in 2019, which was requested by a local activist group called Seneca Lake Guardian, it was found that PFAS was specifically a result of aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF), which was widely used at the Seneca Army Depot facility. That same group now falsely claims that Seneca Meadows is the source of PFAS exposure without any evidence or scientific studies to support these claims.
Myth: “A quarter of the landfill is from New York City, and 12 percent comes from out of state. Only one percent of the waste in the landfill originates from Seneca Falls.”
Fact: Seneca Meadows is a necessary, critical infrastructure site for waste management in the state of New York. Most counties in the Finger Lakes region – including Seneca, Cayuga, Wayne, and more – do not have waste disposal facilities of their own and need to rely on our facility for these needs. Therefore, closing the Seneca Meadows location would require the development of more landfills, which runs contrary to the state of New York’s environmental policies and goals.
Additionally, Seneca Meadows provides free solid waste and wastewater treatment disposal through its host community agreements with Seneca Falls and Waterloo (an estimated annual value of approximately $400,000 for each municipality).