FACT CHECKER

THE TRUTH REVEALED

In July 2004 Sealand Waste, LLC submitted its initial application to expand the Jones-Carroll Landfill and recycling operation to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC).  Within one month of that submission, an opposition group formed by residents near the Site began disseminating false and inaccurate information regarding Sealand and the safety of the proposed landfill expansion.  

Many members of the local community and others have voiced relevant concerns and questions regarding the expansion project, and those concerns and questions have now been addressed through the State Environmental Quality Review (SEQR) process.  Final responses to those comments have been provided for public review in the NYSDEC’s Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS). 

 

On the other hand, virtually every scary claim and catastrophic outcome alleged by those opposed to the facility regarding leaking landfills, diesel particulate matter, impacts on the Martz-Kohl Observatory, extinction of the bald eagle, and many others, are born of fake science and/or begin with a false premise.  Other incredible predictions of widespread death and destruction are pure fabrication. With respect to the landfill issues, consider the following false premise:

Opposition’s Major Premise:        Uncontrolled hazardous waste dumps are dangerous.

Opposition’s Minor Premise:        All landfills are dumps.

Opposition’s Wrong Conclusion:  All landfills are dangerous.

The argument may sound logical and valid, but the conclusion is wrong because the minor premise is false.  Take for example this photograph of a “landfill” that was posted July 6, 2019 with the caption: “Studies Show the Horrid Effects of Landfill Exposure”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is absurd to believe this type of operation would be approved by the NYSDEC.  The photograph is of poverty-stricken residents breathing what are in all likelihood very toxic fumes, wading through leachate, and picking through putrid burning wastes at an urban dumping ground in a third world country.  Obviously, these dumps will have severe adverse impacts on the environment and human health.

 

The  studies, data and conclusions related to these uncontrolled dumps and posted by the opposition are completely unrelated to the highly regulated landfills constructed and operated in the USA.  Knowingly applying that information to Sealand's proposed facility is fakery and irresponsible. 

  Below is a photograph of a double composite lined landfill of the design proposed by Sealand:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking closely, one can detect six of the eight layers of the liner system under construction.

Progressive closure of the landfill is seen from right to left in the background, under a clear blue sky.

 

In February 2004 Sealand began to retain the expert technical specialists required to complete the sophisticated research, field investigations, laboratory test programs, scientific analyses, numerical models, and study reports necessary for no less than six government issued environmental permits and certifications.  Sealand's consultants worked with, and provided documents for review and approval by NYSDEC, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the US Environmental Protection Agency, the US Army Corps of Engineers, the New York State Department of Transportation, the Chautauqua County Department of Health and Human Services and the Chautauqua County Division of Transportation. 

 

Much of the fact checking presented below was easily done by just cutting and pasting key words from the post, googling the original article and reading it.  Recently just by doing that, it was discovered that the last sentence of the last paragraph of the original article was deleted by the critic from his post because it completely deflated his claims.  The deleted statement read like this:

 

"The authors stressed that further studies need to be completed to confirm this."

Sealand asks only that residents of the Town of Carroll keep an open mind, do their own research and make a good faith effort to objectively review the scientific studies presented in Sealand's application that have been approved by the regulatory agencies.   

The Following Fact Checking does not attempt to address each of the hundreds of false and misleading claims by those opposed to the expansion project; rather, the objective is to correct the record on a cross section of the disingenuous claims that have been made.    

FALSE OR MISLEADING CLAIM

“Landfills Are Dangerous:……..The new study examined the occurrence of seven kinds of cancer among men and women living near 38 landfills where naturally occurring landfill gas is thought to be escaping into the surrounding air.”

THE TRUTH

Compounding the failure to distinguish a dump from a contemporary landfill, manipulating the information reveals more about the opposition than the feeble allegations themselves.  On August 20, 2019 the following post appeared:

We have witnessed casual readers becoming truly frightened on hearing such information.  In this case they are deceptively lead to believe this  "new study” was released in June 2018, and related to landfills of the type proposed by Sealand. 

The summary appears to have been lifted word-for-word from the Green Left Weekly website shown in this screen shot:

The cynic modified the date of the article to make it appear 20 years to the day more recent than the actual date in the GLW article.  By doing so he demonstrates less an interest in honest research and reporting, than in shining the worst possible light on Sealand's proposed state-of-the-art solid waste management facility.

In reality the June 1998 State Department of Health study examined cancers in men and women living on the notorious Love Canal dump site, where a school and residences were built on top of 21,000 tons of buried corroding drums of hazardous wastes.  At that completely uncontrolled dump, toxic chemical goo broke through the ground surface in backyards, seeped into basements and popped to the surface on school grounds.  Children returned from play with burns on their hands and faces.

 

An objective analysis of the June 1998 study is available from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), a federal public health organization.  ATSDR’s cautionary statements were unknown or ignored by the opposition and the comrades at Green Left Weekly. 

They look like this:

 

Note the ATSDR's warnings:

  • "This document is provided by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) ONLY as an historical reference for the public health community.  It is no longer being maintained and the data it contains may no longer be current and/or accurate."

  • "These landfills were selected because information indicated that gas production and movement could create conditions for possible exposures.  Of these landfills, 30 began operation before 1970.  These landfills were not lined or capped as they would be if constructed today because New York State and the federal government did not begin regulating landfills until 1973 and 1976, respectively."

Dr. G. Fred Lee

FALSE OR MISLEADING CLAIM

“Safe Landfills are a Fairytale”.  “World-renowned geologist Dr. G. Fred Lee has confirmed that ALL LANDFILLS LEAK", and “..has verified that the type and design of the landfill which is proposed for Dodge Road in the Town of Carroll is not only flawed technology, but it has been proven by numerous academic studies around the United States, to be hazardous and even deadly to those residing in close proximity to these landfill sites.”

THE TRUTH

The opposition often pastes the work of Dr. G. Fred Lee into the posts in support of their position, and even proclaim him to be “perhaps the world’s leading expert on landfills”

 

In his article regarding single composite lined landfills titled Flawed Technology of Subtitle D [1] Landfilling of Municipal Solid Waste, Dr. Lee reports he has “…developed a comprehensive review of the approach that can be followed to develop MSW landfills that will be protective of public health and the environment for as long as the wastes in the landfill will be a threat.” 

 

The main elements of Dr. G. Fred Lee’s Safe Landfill are exactly applicable to Sealand’s landfill including site characteristics that surpass regulatory criteria, readily monitorable groundwater, a double composite liner system, leachate recirculation, landfill gas collection, and perpetual post closure care[2].  Thus, while the opposition ignores this fact, the work of their own expert substantiates that Sealand's landfill will be safe.

 

The State of New York has issued draft permits for the landfill expansion project because the proposed facility meets or exceeds the USA’s most stringent solid waste management regulations, and it provides waste recovery and recycling services not now available in Chautauqua County or the surrounding area.

 

[1] Subtitle D MSW landfills are single composite lined facilities and are not permitted in New York State.

[2] Sealand’s application was complete before the November 2017 updates to the NYS solid waste management facility regulations.  When the facility becomes operational, these now current regulations will require Sealand to fund and implement a custodial care plan which necessitates post closure care to be carried out in perpetuity.

FALSE OR MISLEADING CLAIM

Regarding diesel particulate matter, or DPM:  “The traffic generated by this proposed landfill can and will be life-threatening to many individuals that reside within our community and well beyond the confines of the Town of Carroll.”

THE TRUTH

Exhaust from cars, trucks, buses, construction and farm equipment, motorhomes, trains, ships, generators, and other vehicles and equipment with diesel engines contains a mixture of gases and solid particles.  These solid particles, known as DPM, include many chemicals that are harmful to human health.  The highest levels of DPM on the planet have been measured in densely populated cities near ports, rail yards and busy freeways.

 

Hundreds of catastrophic claims and dozens of articles regarding the dangers of DPM have been posted by the opposition, inappropriately applying outdated statistics and findings representative of commercialized population centers, including Los Angeles, California and the New York City metropolitan area, to the proposed landfill project.  There is no doubt that residents living in those congested densely populated communities have been exposed to DPM in concentrations significantly higher than those found acceptable by the Center for Disease Control. 

 

However, assigning old and irrelevant air quality data obtained from these polluted cities in the time before the current EPA regulations regarding diesel exhaust and modern pollution control technologies to the proposed project is irresponsible, and of no value in assessing the potential health impacts of the project.

Polluted air in Los Angeles, California 

EPA recognized and addressed the impacts of diesel exhaust in the 2007 Highway Rule, phased-in between 2007 and 2010 requiring heavy-duty on-road diesel engine manufacturers to reduce emissions by more than 90 percent (USEPA, 2012)[1].  Standards for off-road construction equipment began applying in 2012 (Bailey, 2014)[2].  Estimates from the EPA predict the new engines will reduce particulate emissions by 99% (Bailey, 2014).

 

The NYSDEC agrees, the limited increases in DPM both on and offsite as a result of the proposed facility are not expected to create any significant adverse environmental or health impacts.

 

[1] U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA).  (2012).  Heavy-Duty Highway Diesel Program.  Website: http://www.epa.gov/oms/highway-diesel.  Last updated on: August 8, 2012.  Accessed on: October 28, 2014.

[2] Bailey, C. (2014).  Update on Diesel Health Issues and EPA Actions.  U.S.EPA Office of Transportation and Air Quality.  Presentation given on May 21, 2014.  Website:http://www.epa.gov/cleandiesel/diesel-health-issues-5-21-14.pdf.  Accessed on October 28, 2014.

FALSE OR MISLEADING CLAIM

“You are sadly mistaken if you are among those who think the proposed landfill on Dodge Road in the Town of Carroll is a benefit to anybody, unless of course you happen to be the owner.”

 

THE TRUTH

The project will benefit a large number of individuals and businesses in the Town, if for no other reason due to the impact of spending approximately $60,000,000 in the local community over the life of the project.  Some of the benefits from this state-of-the-art facility development include:

  • Annual royalty payments to the Town of Carroll of up to $300,000 or more pursuant to a Host Community Benefit Agreement;

  • A perpetual care fund, at the sole cost of Sealand, for post-closure monitoring and maintenance of the Site;

  • A Property Value Protection Program for nearby homes;

  • A Community Involvement Program and Community Advisory Board that provides direct access to Sealand's management team;

  • Replacement of the structurally deficient Wiltsie Road Bridge over Frews Run;

  • Restoration of degraded reaches of Frews Run;

  • Improvements and routine maintenance on Town and County roads near the Site to improve traffic safety;

  • Traffic and pedestrian safety improvements to the 5-Corners intersection in the Hamlet of Frewsburg;

  • Funding a National Safe Kids Walk This Way chapter for the Frewsburg Central School District;

  • Between eight and fifteen new full-time jobs;

  • Up to 30 or more onsite jobs during construction projects; and

  • Annual payroll and benefits up to $1,500,000.

FALSE OR MISLEADING CLAIM

"Sealand has been precluded from constructing the landfill by virtue of the fact that the Town of Carroll is utilizing the Municipal Home Rule Law, and also by which the NY State Appeals Court presiding judges ruled on behalf of the Town of Carroll.  Both state that Sealand was prohibited from constructing the landfill."

THE TRUTH

While the Town Law still stands at this time, Sealand and Jones-Carroll are seeking to overturn the Town's due process violation through the courts, no matter how long it takes. 

 

The United States of America is a constitutional republic founded on the principles of individual rights and freedom.  As such there are limits on Municipal Home Rule and police power, and those limits have been openly and obviously breached.  This fact is borne out by the February 9, 2018 New York State Appellate Division, Fourth Department (Fourth Department) Memorandum and Order denying the Town’s and Chautauqua County’s claim that enacting the 2007 Waste Disposal Law was a proper exercise of the Town's police power that did not violate the property owner’s rights. 

 

The New York State Court of Appeals (COA), the highest court in New York State, never heard arguments on the oppressive 2007 Waste Disposal Law, let alone ruling on it.  The high court did hear arguments regarding the 2005 Zoning Law and their decision favored Jones-Carroll, not the Town.  The COA determined that the right to construct and operate the proposed facility is a vested and constitutionally protected individual property right that runs with the land. 

 

The Town's tactic is to delay, delay, delay; however, the Town, Jones-Carroll and Sealand expect, as the Supreme Court ruled in June 2018, that eventually a bench trial will be held to resolve issues of fact surrounding claims made by the three parties.  At that trial, witnesses will be called and must swear to the truth.  They will be cross examined regarding the manner in which, and the reasons why, the 2007 Waste Disposal Law came about, and why it is applied unequally.

FALSE OR MISLEADING CLAIM

All landfills will leak and lead to environmental pollution.  That is a proven fact and one that was admitted to by James Daigler, Sealand Waste’s Design Engineer."  

THE TRUTH

Mr. Daigler never believed and never said that all landfills will leak and lead to environmental pollution.  Mr. Daigler did say: “All liners leak, the question is how much do they leak?” at a September 2, 2004 informational meeting.  The author of the  fabricated admission knows what Mr. Daigler said, as he correctly quoted the statement in a December 14, 2017 email to NYSDEC permit administrator David Denk. 

 

Dishonestly misquoting Mr. Daigler has become a common tactic in the attempt to bolster the false narrative on landfill performance.

From a scientists’ perspective nothing is impermeable; everything has a leakage rate, even a glass of water.  However, as those who know agree, including the NYSDEC, the EPA and the opposition's own expert Dr. Lee, a double composite landfill liner system is protective of the environment in that it employs four liners, including two geomembrane liners and two soil liners separated and surrounded by three drainage layers serving to contain and remove liquids while providing internal performance monitoring data. 

 

For Sealand’s proposed facility, the liner system sump is “intragradient” such that leakage at the low point of collection will consist of groundwater directed inward, and not leachate directed outward to groundwater. 

The answer to the question ”....how much do they leak?” is found in Section 4.5.4 of the NYSDEC approved Engineering Report, and the associated calculations in Appendix D of that report.  By conservatively ignoring the intragradient condition, the short-term peak leakage rate amounts to 1.7 teaspoons per day over 34.9 acres, and the long-term rate is less than 0.05 teaspoons per day over 34.9 acres.  This is an inconsequential leakage rate that cannot adversely impact groundwater quality, and the double composite liner system is virtually leak proof. 

By way of contrast, in a study quantifying fuel spills in California, it was found on average that about 0.0085% of gasoline dispensed at gas stations will be spilled[1].  The USA consumed about 137 billion gallons of gasoline, or about 430 gallons per US citizen, in 2014.  In a Town of 3,000 residents, this would amount to about 1,290,000 gallons of gasoline pumped per year, about 230 teaspoons of which would be spilled on the ground per day in an area much smaller than 34.9-acres.  On a volume per day basis only, gasoline spillage is about 4,600 times the leakage from the proposed double composite liner system. 

[1] Hilbert. M., Mora, B.A., Rule, A., Nachman, K.  Hydrocarbon Release During Fuel Storage and Transfer at Gas Stations: Environmental and Health Effects, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, (2015).

FALSE OR MISLEADING CLAIM

“The attached documentation and scientific studies shows the vulnerability of the Bald Eagle and also a wide variety of fish, birds, animals and even plants which are located within the sphere of negative influence of this proposed landfill project.”

THE TRUTH

The attached documentation included two unrelated papers.  The first was a US Fish and Wildlife Service paper summarizing bald eagle biology, the plight of the bald eagle, the return of the bald eagle from near extinction, and the future outlook, which is very promising. 

 

The paper concluded: “Loss of habitat, shooting, and DDT poisoning contributed to the near demise of our national symbol.”   

The second “study” was in fact an abstract of a research paper unrelated to the bald eagle titled: “Characterization and toxicological evaluation of leachate from a closed landfill”.  The abstract begins with the statement: “Landfilling is a major option in waste management hierarchy in developing nations. It generates leachate, which has the potential of polluting watercourses. This study analysed the physico-chemical components of leachate from a closed sanitary landfill in Malaysia, in relation to evaluating the toxicological impact on fish species namely Pangasius sutchi S., 1878 and Clarias batrachus L., 1758.”  

This type of study uses Whole Effluent Toxicity (WET) testing where small fish are placed in a tank of undiluted leachate, and their growth and survival rates over a defined period of time are compared to those of the same fish species placed in a tank of clean water. 

 

Small fish soaking in undiluted leachate

There was no mention in either paper regarding the “vulnerability of the Bald Eagle ….. located near a C&D landfill as is proposed in this project." 

The truth of the matter is as stated by the USFWS in their wetlands permit public response letter (See Appendix C of the DEIS),..... "no impacts to bald eagles are anticipated as a result of the project."

Eagles perched on a landfill gas recovery well

FALSE OR MISLEADING CLAIM

The closing statement of the post referenced above strangely attempts to tie WET testing to DDT and a catastrophic outcome for the bald eagle due to Sealand's project with the preposterous proclamation: "landfill leachate is more potent, more toxic than DDT which was responsible for the near extinction of the bald eagle and many other animal species as well” 

Many years ago regarding the toxicity of leachate it was alleged: "...four drops from a standard eye dropper of leachate placed into a swimming pool containing 25,000 gallons of water will pollute that sample so it is not fit for human/animal consumption.”

 

THE TRUTH

Factors that affect the character of landfill leachate include:

  • Waste composition (e.g., hazardous waste, municipal solid waste (MSW), C&D, coal ash, etc.);

  • Age of the waste;

  • Design and operation of the dump or landfill;

  • Climate;

  • Hydrogeologic conditions in the vicinity of the dump or landfill; and

  • Conditions within the dump or landfill such as chemical and biological activities, moisture content, temperature, pH, and the degree of waste stabilization.

Because these factors vary tremendously between any given hazardous waste dump and a municipal solid waste (MSW) landfill, and between a MSW landfill and a C&D landfill, significant variability exists in leachate composition, toxicity, and strength. 

 

Leachate from a modern C&D landfill is relatively weak and is primarily composed of water, with predominantly inorganic contaminants measured in parts per billion. 

The table below presents the results of a simple calculation to determine the amount of clean water that would be needed to dilute four drops of C&D landfill leachate and four drops of DDT spray to the point where NYS drinking water standards would be met.  The table also shows the amount of clean water that would be needed to dilute four drops of a DDT spray to New York State's protection of wildlife standard. 

 

The concentrations of contaminants in C&D landfill leachate used in the calculation were found in EPA literature (1995)[1] or from values measured in leachate from the Jones-Carroll C&D landfill, whichever value was greater.  Note that historically, DDT was sprayed outdoors for the control of mosquitoes in a solution containing 5% DDT (Quarterman, 1957)[2].

As shown, one can place four drops of C&D landfill leachate in fractions of an ounce of clean water and still meet NYS drinking water standards. 

 

However, it would require over 13,000 gallons of clean water to dilute DDT spray before it was safe to drink.  Astonishingly, one would require over 240,000,000 gallons of clean water to dilute DDT spray to a level protective of the bald eagle.

 

[1] U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). (1995). Construction and Demolition Waste Landfills. U.S. EPA Office of Solid Waste. Prepared by ICF Incorporated, Contract No. 68-W3-0008.

[2] Quarterman, K. D. (1957).The Use of Insecticides Against Adult Mosquitoes. Mosquito News, 17(4). Website: https://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/content/part/JAMCA/MN_V17_N4_P254-257.pdf. Accessed on October 1, 2019.

Rush, NY, USA

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