County legislature rejects ash for cover at Cortland landfill

Update 7:55 p.m. – 

After hearing comments from more than a dozen residents who were opposed to the project, the Cortland County Legislature narrowly rejected a proposal Thursday to import ash for cover at the Cortland County landfill.

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The final vote was 9-7 against approving the contract with the Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency (OCRRA) that would involve importing about 4,500 tons of ash per year at the landfill. A majority of audience members broke out in applause following the vote count.

Just prior to Thursday's vote, the legislature heard comments from Kevin Voorhees, a representative from Bartnett and Loguidice, a Syracuse area engineering firm that the county hired as a consultant to examine the landfill. Voorhees said New York State has a 30-year history of using ash at its landfills with no environmental problems.

The county would have received about $64,000 in revenue from importing ash and an additional $100,000 in savings on mining equipment, according to Cortland County Highway Superintendent Phil Krey. The county uses mining equipment to mine for shale for use as cover at the landfill.

Legislator Linda Jones said her constituents have expressed enough concern about the health and environmental risks of importing ash that any potential financial benefits pale in comparison.

"I really hope this means that it will be the end of hearing anything about ash into this county," Jones said.

Here's how legislators voted:

In favor: Richard Bushnell, Tom Hartnett, Keith Sudbrink, John Troy, Gordon Wheelock, Kevin Whitney, Donnell Boyden.

Against: Susan Briggs, James Denkeberger, Mary Ann Discenza, Linda Jones, Raylynn Knolls, Sandy Price, Luke Snyder, Joseph Steinhoff, George Wagner

Legislator Amy Cobb was absent, which counts as a dissenting vote.

Earlier – 

CORTLAND, N.Y. – The Cortland County Legislature is scheduled to vote tonight on whether or not to accept up to 4,500 tons of ash per year for use as cover at the county landfill.

Last week, the Solid Waste Committee of the legislature endorsed a five-year contract agreement with the Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency (OCRRA) that would allow the county to use ash as a form of "alternative daily cover" at the landfill.

Critics of the proposal have raised concerns about the health and environmental risks of using ash, citing roughly 45 other states that have banned the use of ash at landfills.

28 people signed up for public comment Thursday night, according to county clerk Jeremy Boylan, including municipal officials in Cortland County.

Paul Heider, who serves on the Solon Town Board, said he has observed problems at the landfill over the years that have not been addressed by the county.

"Bringing in a new entity to the landfill with so many problems is inconceivable to me," Heider said. "Onondaga County has a terrible track record for environmental issues."

Lynn J. Eaton, a Cortland resident, held up a set of handcuffs and promised to chain himself to the fence at the landfill if the county approves the contract.

Tonight's scheduled vote comes as the county's controversial ash for trash proposal with OCRRA remains in limbo.

This is a developing story. We will provide updates. 

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