In the small town of Seneca Falls, New York, stands an imposing and infamous structure that is hard to miss. Seneca Meadows, the largest landfill in the state, looms nearly 300 feet tall, almost as tall as the iconic Statue of Liberty. Spanning over 350 acres, this decades-old depository has become a visual blight on the landscape, visible from miles away.
Not only is Seneca Meadows an eyesore, but it also poses numerous challenges for the residents living in its vicinity. For those living to the east, the landfill obstructs the natural sunset, casting an early dusk upon their homes. However, the most notorious issue associated with Seneca Meadows is its overpowering odor, which has earned it comparisons to dumpsters, dirty diapers, rancid meat, and rotting fruit. In fact, the odorous landfill has even inspired the creation of online maps marking areas where "it stinks."
Despite these ongoing issues, there was a glimmer of hope for the community as the landfill's closure seemed imminent. According to state permits, Seneca Meadows was scheduled to cease operations by the end of 2025. However, the landfill's owner, Waste Connections, a Texas-based waste management company, recently filed documents with the state requesting approval to expand its operations. The proposed expansion involves filling a massive 47-acre “valley” located between two existing mounds at the site. To put this into perspective, the amount of waste required to fill this valley would be equivalent to filling the MetLife Stadium ten times over. Waste Connections estimates that this expansion project would extend the landfill's lifespan until 2040.
If approved, the expansion would not only perpetuate the landfill's presence but also raise its peak by approximately 70 feet. This increase would make Seneca Meadows comparable in height to a towering 35-story building. The landfill would then stand as one of the tallest man-made structures in upstate New York, further solidifying its status as an olfactory outlier in the predominantly picturesque Finger Lakes region.
The people of Seneca Falls and its surrounding areas have long been plagued by a myriad of problems caused by the landfill. Residents have voiced concerns about the heavy truck traffic associated with waste transportation, as well as the constant presence of choking dust in the air. There are also fears that landfill runoff, known as leachate, could contaminate the local drinking water supply. To compound matters, there have been incidents of "trash blowouts" where sections of the landfill collapse, resulting in garbage cascading onto nearby areas. The constant presence of pesky seagulls seeking free food further exacerbates the plight of the community. These birds leave behind their droppings on roofs, cars, and customers at nearby shopping centers.
Even among those who support the landfill, there is a shared sentiment that they would prefer if Seneca Meadows, with all its associated issues, did not exist. Michael J. Ferrara, the Seneca Falls town supervisor and a lifelong resident, acknowledges this, stating, "If we had to make a decision today, with what we know, then obviously there would be no landfill there." However, Ferrara, despite acknowledging the landfill's drawbacks, has thrown his support behind the proposed expansion, emphasizing the landfill's long-standing presence in the area.
The sprawling Seneca Meadows landfill is situated in close proximity to several major cities and regions. It lies approximately 40 miles away from Syracuse, Albany, and the New York State Thruway. Furthermore, it is situated near the Hudson River, and its proximity to states like Pennsylvania and New Jersey makes it a concern for a larger geographical area, including New York City.
As the fate of Seneca Meadows remains uncertain, the community of Seneca Falls continues to grapple with the repercussions of living near New York state's largest landfill.
themes: Pennsylvania New York City New Jersey New York (state)