LOCKPORT – The head of Niagara County’s blue-collar union asked the state last week to begin “a thorough investigation” of the county Refuse Disposal District because of leaks from a closed garbage landfill in Lockport.
The refuse district’s director, Dawn M. Timm, charged in response that union chief William Rutland is concerned more about union jobs than environmental issues.
When the refuse district stopped accepting waste at its only landfill in July 2013, the county was able to dispense with four positions represented by Rutland’s union, Local 182 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, as well as all the district’s other staff.
Since then, the refuse district has been borrowing two members of Rutland’s union from the Highway Department to pump and haul leachate from long-closed Landfill 1, which is next to the construction and demolition, or C&D, landfill the county closed a year ago.
In June, those workers reported liquid leaking into a swale around Landfill 1.
The county was unable to haul the leachate away as it normally does because the refuse district’s tanker truck was undergoing transmission repairs, a scheduled event that Timm had told the refuse district board about nearly two months before. The county hired a private company to do the work, and Rutland filed a grievance.
“I’m not going to let the leachate pile up,” Timm said. Rutland countered that Timm was lying.
The DEC sent the county a notice of violation after an inspection, but the DEC has yet to decide if it will fine the county for that and other violations found.
“Mr. Rutland wants to play Erin Brockovich, but I don’t think he has the proper understanding of the operations of Landfill 1 and the C&D landfill,” Timm said.
The county typically hauls 1,500 gallons of leachate each week from the landfill to the City of Lockport sewage treatment plant.
“No matter what Mr. Rutland says, this site doesn’t need full-time employees,” Timm said. “It needs remediation. It needs engineering.”
She said the county is saving more than $600,000 a year in salary and benefits by the landfill layoffs.
Timm said the county plans to drill five monitoring wells next month, four into bedrock at least 110 feet deep and one into bedrock 60 to 70 feet deep, to see if there is any contamination from Landfill 1 reaching ground water.
Rutland wrote to the Department of Environmental Conservation that one of the violations, regarding increased levels of leachate in manholes near the landfill, demonstrates increasing pressure in the landfill that could wreck the liner.
Timm said the level of leachate in the manholes remains more than nine feet below the surface. Rutland told the DEC the district needs a “competent and credible director” and that, in his opinion, Timm “does not have that ability.”
“Blatantly false,” Timm said. “I have a master’s degree in environmental science and public policy. My bachelor’s degree is in environmental earth science. Besides that, before I joined the county, I was a project scientist for (URS Corp.), a company locally managing legacy issues with waste landfills.”