Despite numerous statements that no such contract existed, a 2005 contract (click here to read the contract) signed by former City Manager Rich Rising, released to the public today, locks the City into a 10-year agreement to treat leachate from the Ontario County Landfill.
The contract stipulates that the leachate may be transported to the
The contract goes on to say City may re-negotiate the price, if the City experiences additional operating expenses involved in treating the leachate. The contract also specifies, under the “sampling and monitoring requirements” section, “the leachate will be sampled and analyzed for parameters to be provided by the City.” It would appear that, in light of serious concerns about the composition of leachate directly or indirectly from a new, untested “gasification” process-- also in the works at the landfill—Council ought to take a hard line on those parameters. Specific parameters are not included in the 2005 contract.
Until yesterday, it appears, the City Attorney (David Foster), the City Manager (Matt Horn), and the Director of Public Works (Gordon Eddington), were unaware that such a contract existed. According to local attorney Sam Bonney, Foster’s original response to Bonney’s request for a copy of the contract was that such a contract did not exist. Likewise, an inquiry from Council to the current City Manager turned up no documents. Yet, the day before the Council vote, the contract surfaced on the City’s website.
Where was the contract found and who found it? The public and Council are owed answers. (File that under “TRUST.”) The answers will say much about how well City government is functioning, when in the weeks long build up to a major Council decision related to the leachate, Councilors and staff did not have their hands on a critical document, namely, the current leachate contract.
Our most recent post on the Ontario County landfill, operated by Casella Waste Systems, began with a reminder to our readers that regional awareness and activism are appropriate and, in fact, necessary, to prevent the deal-making that might well lead to the long term environmental degradation of our city and Finger Lakes area. It is an outrage that our elected officials leave it to activists to do the due diligence that ought to be their own, as the elected representatives of the people.
As we emphasized in that post, overall, the best choice the County could make at this point would be to terminate the lease arrangement with Casella altogether! This would return what has become an international garbage extravaganza to its more humble origins as a local municipal waste repository.
After all, what will we do with our own garbage when the County landfill is full, in part, with “long haul volume from both Eastern and downstate markets” (Casella’s own characterization of their work in Ontario County, as documented in this report to their shareholders, page 8).
Hardly likely they’ll dump Cassella, so, it seems the least the County Supervisors could do as stewards of the public interest is to reject ‘gasification’—a Star Wars garbage plant that would serve only to import more garbage from across the galaxy—and for Casella’s profit, not the common good--- and export potentially toxic emissions (at the County’s, which is to say, the tax payers,’ expense).
Sure, the County could make a quick buck on the project, but at what cost—our long term health and safety? This is not exactly a ‘Sophie’s Choice.’ There is no moral dilemma here. The simple answer is that greed must not triumph over common sense.
Likewise with deliberations at the City level—here in the City of
But why are we even talking about the how’s when we haven’t ever dealt with the why’s? Underlying all of these concerns is the implicit assumption— implicit and affirmed on a regular basis by former City Manager, Rich Rising, and the current Director of public Works, that the City was somehow legally obligated to accept the leachate. While that turns out to be true, the terms of the contract were never known to Council members and the public until today: the day of the vote. Current City Manager, Matt Horn, who according to the local paper, supports the sewer line for the leachate, has said that he could find no contract, no agreement, not even a gentlemen’s agreement that Geneva has to take the leachate.
Thus Council waded through truck traffic vs. a dedicated sewer line, the cost to treat vs. the amount charged to the source, etc., hammering on the how the City of Geneva might handle the leachate, rather than the critical question, “Should the City of Geneva handle the leachate?”
This explains why, in 2004, City Council unanimously supported a plan for Casella to construct, at their own expense, a dedicated sewer pipe from the landfill to the City line, complete with City-controlled shut-off valves in case of emergency. The idea was to eliminate additional truck traffic generated by the need to haul the material daily from the landfill to the wastewater treatment plant.
This plan culminated in the March 2, 2005 vote to enter into an agreement to treat leachate coming to the city via a dedicated line. Again, from the presentation made at the beginning of the meeting (detailed in the minutes available here), the primary concern was safety of transport and reduction of truck traffic.
The point was then made that this leachate had been coming to the city for years, and this was a new opportunity to deal with it in a safer, less offensive, more efficient manner. It was presented to Council as a way to modify an existing agreement, not a fundamental decision about whether or not an agreement was a good idea in itself.
To be fair, a case could be made that, if charged at an appropriately high rate, the leachate treatment could prove profitable to the City of
The total operation brings in less than $150,000/year (see budget page 82) or about 5% of the sewer fees paid by City residents. Total leachate treatment net revenue for leachate received from
We think it’s an uncontroversial claim that no contamination of
So the question is this: What price tag, if any, do we put on clean water? Is $150,000 our asking price for potential long term contamination? Is any price worth the risk?
Instead, the obligation Council has is to the health and welfare of the people of