Radioactive Frack Waste in Landfill — Steuben County, NY

by Duane Nichols on June 4, 2020

Two landfills in New York State are receiving radioactive waste from Penna.

Environmental groups submit data in lawsuit against Steuben County, New York State

From an Article by Caitlin Murphy, WENY News, February 18, 2020

CAMPBELL, N.Y. (WENY) – Several environmental advocacy groups have filed an amended verified petition in Steuben County Supreme Court to update their ongoing lawsuit against the expansion of Hakes C&D Landfill in the Town of Campbell.

As WENY News reported, the state recently approved the landfill expanding from 60 acres to 80 acres.

The lawsuit was filed by Sierra Club, People for a Healthy Environment, Inc. and Concerned Citizens of Allegany County, Inc. against the Department of Environmental Conservation and the Town of Campbell in April of 2019. The case had been put on hold pending the issuance of the required permits by the NY-DEC, which happened on December 19.

The groups filed a new affidavit by Dr. Raymond Vaughan from Buffalo, who they say performed new calculations to estimate the amounts of radium is in the landfill. The calculations are reportedly based on his earlier research that looked into the amount of radon in the landfill.

According to the organizations, because radon is a breakdown product of radium, the radon estimates can be used to estimate how much radium there is.

“Based on a comparison of the Hakes Landfill to another landfill where the amounts of radium in the waste are known, Dr. Vaughan calculates that the Hakes Landfill would need to contain about 2500 to 175,000 pCi/g radium in its waste to produce the ~1 million pCi/L of radon in its landfill gas that he has previously calculated is present in the landfill, based on the landfill’s leachate test results,” said the groups in their announcement. “The range of 2500 to 175,000 pCi/g radium is far beyond the Hakes Landfill’s nominal acceptance limit of 25 pCi/g.”

“This does not mean that the Hakes landfill actually contains radium-bearing waste that approaches 2500 to 175,000 pCi/g radium,” said Vaughan. “How much radioactive waste is in the landfill is an open question that requires testing to answer. My rough calculation of radium in the landfill, like my earlier calculations of radon levels, are intended as a warning that low levels of radium in the Hakes landfill waste (less than 25 pCi/g) can’t be reconciled with the intermittently high radon levels indicated by the Hakes leachate test results, and that NY-DEC must investigate what is happening.”

In January, the manager of the landfill told WENY News they did install radiation sensors to ensure radon and radium levels are closely monitored, but the groups who filed the suit say further testing should have been done before the expansion was approved.

“We expect Judge McAllister to agree that more testing should have been conducted before NY-DEC and the Town of Campbell released their approvals of the Hakes landfill expansion project,” said Kate Bartholomew, chair of the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter:

“The neighbors of the landfill need to be protected from large scale releases of radon gas through the landfill’s flaring system. There is strong evidence in the landfill’s leachate test results that radon gas builds up in the air of the landfill and is emitted to the atmosphere through the flares. Because radon in not flammable, radon does not burn like the other gases being flared. Instead, it circulates in the atmosphere around the landfill, where people can breathe it in and where its radioactive breakdown products attach to the dust generated by the landfill.”

“Rather than investigate what is happening, NY-DEC has chosen to stick its head in the mud,” Bartholomew said. “After the we filed our expert witness statements pointing out that the landfill’s leachate test results show very high levels of radon breakdown products in several of the test samples, instead of investigating, NY-DEC removed the requirement that the landfill test its leachate for the radon breakdown products. In so doing, NY-DEC has greatly lessened its ability to monitor radioactivity in the landfill.”

“Similar evidence of radium and radon is contained in the leachate test results of the Chemung County landfill,” said Gary McCaslin, President of People for a Healthy Environment, Inc. “It is imperative that NY-DEC investigate why the leachate test results at the two landfills in New York taking the greatest volume of drill cuttings from gas drilling operations in the Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania show evidence of high levels of radium and radon,” McCaslin said.


See also: Sierra Club v. NYS DEC (Hakes), Radioactivity Issues Presented by Hakes Landfill Expansion Proposal

Challenging NY-DEC’s Failure to Adequately Address Radioactivity Issues in its SEQRA Review of the Proposed Expansion of the Hakes C&D Landfill in Campbell, NY

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