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Dunn Landfill Air Quality Study

Odor and Dust Complaints

The Dunn Landfill is a DEC permitted construction and demolition (C&D) debris landfill located in the City of Rensselaer and Town of North Greenbush, Rensselaer County. The landfill received a DEC permit to operate in August 2014 and began accepting C&D debris for disposal in January 2015.

In December 2018, DEC started receiving an increasing number of odor complaints about the landfill. Residents of the neighboring community reported rotten egg and sulfur odors. DEC is publishing a regular factsheet series to share information with the community regarding actions taken by DEC to improve air quality in the areas surrounding the Dunn Landfill.

Hydrogen Sulfide Monitoring

In April 2019, DEC began monitoring for hydrogen sulfide (H2S) at four separate locations near the Dunn Landfill as shown in the map (Figure 1). H2S is an odorous gas that is generated from the decomposition of organic material and other material containing sulfur including C&D debris. New York State has an ambient air quality standard for H2S. In any one-hour period, the average concentration of H2S shall not exceed 0.01 parts per million (ppm). The standard is based on the fact that odors can unreasonably interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of life and property. Some individuals may smell H2S below the standard, as studies have shown that the H2S odor threshold for approximately 14 percent of the population is 0.002 ppm. Health effects are not seen at these low odor thresholds.

DEC installed Acrulog samplers which are an effective screening tool for detecting H2S odor episodes. The samplers are battery operated and the results are considered screening level because of limitations with the instrument. Diesel exhaust and some common gases such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide can interfere (by increasing the apparent H2S concentration) with the accuracy of the H2S results. Therefore, this instrument cannot be used as an enforcement tool. DEC uses a different instrument to measure H2S for comparison to the air quality standard.

Over the monitoring period of April 4, 2019 - September 16, 2019, H2S measurements were collected from four locations around Dunn Landfill. The number of occurrences when H2S has been detected has been very low and predominantly during late evening and early morning hours when the landfill was closed. During these periods of time winds are calm, and other conditions are sometimes present which can keep pollutants close to the ground. There have been a few dates when the monitors measured H2S above 0.01 ppm for consecutive 10-minute readings. A summary for each of the sampling locations follows:

  • Cemetery: 0.29% (64 of 22,148 observations) of the readings detected H2S and the maximum 10-minute reading was 0.025 ppm
  • Soccer Field: 0.26% (60 of 23,071 observations) of the readings detected H2S and the maximum 10-minute reading was 0.029 ppm
  • Baseball Field:0.64% (147 of 23,099 observations) of the readings detected H2S and the maximum 10-minute reading was 0.420 ppm
  • 9th Street: 0.011% (2 of 18,141 observations) of the readings detected H2S and the maximum 10-minute reading was 0.003 ppm – monitor moved on August 14 to Garden Place
  • Garden Place: 0.59% (28 of 4,745 observations) of the readings detected H2S and the maximum 10-minute reading was 0.009 ppm

H2S was mostly detected at the soccer and baseball field sampling locations which are very close to and downwind of the landfill. The predominant wind direction for the area is south to north. The current air sampling results show that the H2S readings are not at a level of concern but at a level where short-term odor events could be noticed by residents. DEC will continue to monitor offsite odor migration to assess the possible need for other corrective measures to be implemented.

On August 14, 2019, the monitor at 9th Street H2S was moved to Hollow Park near Garden Place which is where several odor complaints have been made by the public. H2S was detected only twice (at the lowest level of detection 0.003 ppm) in a four-month period at the 9th Street monitor location.

Location of H2S monitors in relation to the Dunn Landfill

Figure 1. Map of Sampling Locations

Dust/Particulate Monitoring

DEC conducts regular site visits to identify any issues with dust releases from activities at the Dunn Landfill. In addition to onsite visual observations, DEC began monitoring for offsite particulate concentrations on July 27, at the Van Rensselaer Elementary School (see Figure 1). The monitor collects hourly measurements of particles (particulate matter less than 10 microns in size (PM10). Activities that create a lot of noticeable dust typically create PM10 particles. Because particles in this size range are light enough to remain suspended, they can travel from upwind areas so a portion of the PM10 measured reflects transport of particles from activities outside the area, which are not related to Dunn Landfill. To determine local particulate concentrations, a comparison was made with particulate measurements collected at the Albany County Health Department (directly across the Hudson River from the Landfill).

In Figure 2, the comparison shows very similar concentrations and both monitors are well below the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for PM10 which is 150 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3) for a 24-hour average (daily). Although dust may be visible onsite, there doesn’t appear to be offsite migration of particles at the location of the particulate monitor, which is downwind of the landfill. Routine maintenance was performed on the Dunn Landfill instrument on August 8, and during those hours, no PM10 measurements were collected.

Similar concentrations of PM10 found at the Albany County Health Department and the Van Rensselaer Elementary School

Figure 2. Particulate Matter (PM10) Daily Averages July 27 to September 15, 2019

Odor Hotline

Report nuisance odors 1-800-457-7362 toll-free 24-hour hotline.

DEC will conduct on-the-spot air quality inspections using portable air monitoring equipment to assess the odor issues and help identify the cause in response to complaints.

Additional Information About Odors

To learn more about odors and health effects visit these sites.

New York State Department of Health - Odors & Health (leaves DEC's website)

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry - Environmental Odors (leaves DEC's website)