Proposal looks to address odors at County Landfill

(Photo Source: Cortland County website).

The Cortland County Highway Committee Tuesday voted unanimously to fund measures that would mitigate foul odors and methane emissions at the County Landfill in the village of McGraw.

The proposed project, which would consist of a gas capture-and-burn type of system and add more protective cover to the landfill, would be funded up to $1.7 million through a general fund account. 

The project is dubbed a “gas collection control system.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, former town of Solon supervisor Stephen Furlin complained about the wretched smells near his residence.

“The smell is sickening. It is toxic,” he said. “It all depends on which way the wind blows, but somebody is always getting an odor.”

The smell, Furlin said, has even prompted neighboring municipalities to call local authorities. 

“I didn’t know how bad it was until I got a call from an official in the village of McGraw. The smell in the village was so bad that officials thought it was a gas leak,” he said.

Furlin warned the committee of the negative effects of the landfill’s stench.

“If it continues, the property values are (going to) plummet,” he said. “This has grown. It is bigger. More people are being affected by this.”

County highway superintendent Charles Sudbrink said he addressed the situation last year and commissioned a gas collection survey to see if it would be possible to install a gas collection control system. 

The county may not have a choice in installing the project, as the renewal of the landfill’s permit is coming in 2024. New state regulations also call for such a system, Sudbrink said. 

“My job to manage the landfill is to make it the most valuable asset I can, and the longer the shelf life of the landfill is, the more money it is for the county,” he said. “We have always been trying to put in the minimum amount of cover required. Sometimes it is not enough and the gas will leak through that. The odor is getting out and it is starting to affect residents. We need to find a middle ground for this odor problem.”

The overall goal of the project is to ultimately mitigate the odors emerging from the landfill. 

“There are 36,000 tons of garbage decomposing at the landfill every year. You are not (going to) stop the odor, we are just trying to suppress it,” Sudbrink said.

Jillian Blake, a leading consultant at the Syracuse-based engineering Barton and Loguidice, estimated that the proposed systems would cover 85 percent of gas emissions, based on the company’s analysis of the landfill. Blake noted the number can be volatile. 

Legislative chair Kevin Fitch (R-LD-8) expressed support for the project.

“This is not a one-system that fixes everything-type of approach,” he said. “With methane collection, we actually benefit with the carbon credits. We have to do it by 2024 anyway, but this is something that we cannot hold off on. The residents need to get help. We have to attack the problem from all sides.”

Below is a table of gas emitted at the landfill:

(Photo Source: Cortland County).

County officials are hoping to offset some of the projects’ high costs with carbon credits, which are a kind of permit that represents one ton of carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere. They can be purchased by an individual or, more commonly, a company to make up for carbon dioxide emissions that come from industrial production, delivery vehicles or travel, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

Below is a table of the potential carbon credits the county could earn:

(Photo Source: Cortland County).

Grants are another avenue for the county to offset costs.

“There is a state landfill gas grant, but there is a pretty long waitlist of projects,” Blake said. “They only fund $800,000 in projects a year and every applicant can get up to $2 million in matching funds.” 

The proposed project will now go to the County’s Finance and Administration Committee for a vote next week. It will subsequently go to the County Legislature for final approval at the end of the month.