Oswego County Legislature Chairman's Office, 46 East Bridge St., Oswego, NY 13126

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Jan. 20, 2006

Report Provides Framework for Decisions on Solid Waste System

One of the first tasks of the New Year for the county Legislature's Infrastructure and Facilities Committee will be to digest a 93-page report on the county's comprehensive solid waste system.

The report evolved from the work of the strategic planning task force and was completed in December by Cashin Associates, a Long Island-based engineering firm. It examines all elements of the county's solid waste system and presents options for how the county may handle household garbage, recyclables, and commercial waste for years to come.

First and foremost, the report concludes that Oswego County's solid waste system is well-managed, well-maintained, cost effective, and environmentally sound. The county designed the system to be a convenient and environmentally responsible way of processing and disposing of waste, but substantial investments are needed to keep it running smoothly. The county has been successful in controlling costs for the system, but in recent years, we haven't set aside enough money for expensive repairs and maintenance to keep the system running smoothly. Major projects over the next few years, such as capping and closing sections of the Bristol Hill Landfill, developing new sections, and improvements to the ERF and transfer stations will cost between $8 and $13.4 million.

Oswego County has a long history of taking a leadership role in waste management. During the 1960s and 1970s, people brought their garbage to 19 different dumps or disposal sites. For the most part, the sites were open areas, operated by the towns, cities and villages, and offered little or no protection to the groundwater and surrounding environment.

As national attention started to focus on environmental problems of solid waste disposal, the county Department of Public Works took a lead role in solid waste planning. In 1975, the county built the first transfer stations in Oswego, Hastings, Richland and Hannibal. Soon after, the county began developing the Energy Recovery Facility, which burns waste and generates energy, and the Bristol Hill Landfill to accept waste and ash. In the early 90s, we built the Materials Recovery Facility at Bristol Hill. From 1992 to 2003, recyclable materials such as newspaper, cardboard, glass, and plastic were taken to the MRF where they were sorted and prepared for shipping. We eventually determined the county could generate more revenue by selling all recyclables to a processing facility in Onondaga County, and the MRF was closed at the end of 2003.

The consultants took a close look at each part of the county's solid waste program, and evaluated costs of operation, maintenance and repairs, environmental benefits and other issues. They looked at how the system works as a whole and ways of generating additional revenues. They also looked at what is working in other counties of similar size in New York State.

Here are some interesting facts found in the report:

  • 60 percent of the waste and recyclables are brought to the transfer stations by municipal and private haulers. The remaining 40 percent is comprised of families and individual households.
  • The ERF has been effective in conserving space at the landfill and has extended the useful life of the landfill by several years.
  • In 2004 the ERF burned 64,582 tons of waste. The county sold more than 199 million kilo-pounds of low-pressure steam to the nearby Interface Solutions Inc.
  • The ERF produced more than 3.5 kilowatt-hours of electricity and sold it to Niagara Mohawk Power Corp. in 2004.
  • County residents collected 7,551 tons of recyclables in 2004, and disposed of 22,704 tons of household waste.
  • The county earns between $100,000 and $120,000 a year from selling recyclables.

The report also examines the pros and cons of expanding the landfill, accepting waste from other counties, setting up designated funds to pay for operations, and public-private partnerships for managing the system, and issues such as flow control and outside waste.

The document provides a framework for legislators to use when deciding the future of the solid waste system. It will be invaluable over the coming months as we debate the merits of each option before the Legislature decides which direction to take.

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