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Dunn Landfill

Community Updates

About the Dunn Landfill

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. In ​July 2012, DEC issued a combined mining and solid waste permit to S.A. Dunn, which authorized the construction and operation of a C&D debris landfill at the Dunn facility. The landfill began accepting C&D debris for disposal in January 2015. The current permit is in effect until July 19, 2022.

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 directed the Dunn Landfill to improve operations and reduce odors at the facility. These comprehensive actions included new gas collection and cover system requirements and enhanced odor monitoring to reduce impacts to the community. Additionally, DEC deployed H2S monitors to strategic locations to provide enhanced monitoring of odors at the landfill site.

DEC continues to monitor landfill operations to ensure the community and the environment are protected.

Report Your Complaints, Questions, and Concerns

Odors and Dust

Call (518) 292-0449 (a designated 24-hour, third party hotline) to report significant odors, dust, or other concerns. Residents are encouraged to call the Hotline should they experience a significant odor or dust event related to the landfill. This will alert the operator and require them to respond and address any problem at the facility. In addition, using the Hotline will immediately alert DEC, create a record of the complaint, and allow DEC the opportunity to respond.

Concerns or Questions

Contact DEC Region 4 at (518) 357-2096, Brian Maglienti, P.E. at brian.maglienti@dec.ny.gov or Jonathan Whitcomb at jonathan.whitcomb@dec.ny.gov, with any questions or concerns about landfill operations.

Health-Related: Contact New York State Department of Health at (518) 402-7800 for health-related questions.

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 website)

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

H2S Monitoring

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 0.010 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 concentrations.

DEC installed Acrulog samplers, which are an effective screening tool for detecting H2S odor episodes, in the community around the landfill. The samplers are battery operated and there are some 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.

2019 Results

From April to November 21, 2019, DEC collected H2S measurements from five locations around the landfill (Figure 1). The number of occurrences when H2S was detected was very low and predominantly during late evening and early morning hours when the landfill was closed. During those periods of time, winds were calm and other conditions were sometimes present which can keep pollutants close to the ground. There were a few dates when the monitors measured H2S above 0.010 ppm for consecutive 10-minute readings. A summary for each of the sampling locations follows:

  • Cemetery: 0.29% (88 of 30,325 observations) of the readings detected H2S and the maximum 10-minute reading was 0.050 ppm
  • Soccer Field: 0.31% (96 of 31,323 observations) of the readings detected H2S and the maximum 10-minute reading was 0.052 ppm
  • Baseball Field:0.86% (268 of 31,333 observations) of the readings detected H2S and the maximum 10-minute reading was 0.420 ppm
  • Garden Place: 0.24% (28 of 11,850 observations) of the readings detected H2S and the maximum 10-minute reading was 0.009 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

H2S was detected at the cemetery, soccer, and baseball field sampling locations. Most of the detects occurred at the baseball field sampling location, which is close to and downwind of the landfill. The predominant wind direction for the area is south to north. The H2S air sampling results indicated that the landfill is a source of sporadic but noticeable odors. These odors may trigger temporary symptoms in some people, such as headache, nausea and throat irritation, but the levels detected were highly unlikely to result in long-term health effects.

On August 14, 2019, the monitor at 9th Street was moved to Hollow Park near Garden Place, which is where several odor complaints were 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. All H2S monitors were removed on November 12 because the instruments do not operate well when outside temperatures are below freezing.

Locations of 2019 H2S monitors in relation to the Dunn Landfill
Figure 1. Map of H2S Sampling Locations

2020 Results

On April 6, 2020, Acrulog samplers were re-installed around the landfill. They were removed on October 28, 2020, because of cold weather. The number of occurrences and concentrations when H2S was detected was very low.

  • Soccer Field: 2.0% (521 of 26,101 observations) of the readings detected H2S and the maximum 10-minute reading was 0.016 ppm
  • Baseball Field: 3.5% (907 of 25,785 observations) of the readings detected H2S and the maximum 10-minute reading was 0.036 ppm
  • Cemetery: 1.3% (288 of 22,468 observations) of the readings detected H2S and the maximum 10-minute reading was 0.128 ppm

2021 Results

On June 30, 2021, Acrulog samplers were re-installed around the landfill. They were removed on November 22, 2021, because of cold weather. The number of occurrences and concentrations when H2S was detected was very low.

  • Soccer Field: 0.36% (73 of 20,494 observations) of the readings detected H2S and the maximum 10-minute reading was 0.031 ppm
  • Baseball Field:0.57% (116 of 20,372 observations) of the readings detected H2S and the maximum 10-minute reading was 0.039 ppm
  • Cemetery: 0.24% (36 of 14,833 observations) of the readings detected H2S and the maximum 10-minute reading was 0.018 ppm

Dust/Particulate Monitoring

DEC conducts regular site visits to identify any issues with dust releases from activities at the landfill. Activities that create a lot of noticeable dust typically create particles (particulate matter less than 10 microns in size (PM10)). The National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for PM10 is 150 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3) for a 24-hour average (daily). Because particles in this size range are light enough to remain suspended, they can travel from upwind areas. A portion of the PM10 measured reflects transport of particles from activities outside the area, which are not related to the 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 addition to onsite visual observations, DEC began monitoring for offsite particulate concentrations on July 27, 2019, at the Rensselaer City School. The monitor collects hourly measurements of PM10.

2019 Results

As noted in Figure 3, both monitors measured concentrations below the NAAQS for PM10. On September 19, 21, and 22, PM10 concentrations increased at the Rensselaer City School above concentrations measured at the Albany County Health Department. The increases may have been due to traffic related to school athletic events, lawn maintenance, or dust moving offsite from activities at the landfill. From December 23 to 24, PM10 concentrations in the Albany and Rensselaer area were elevated due to weather conditions where warm air above a layer of cold air (called weather inversions) traps air pollutants. Salt, applied to roads during winter weather, and road dust become airborne and raise PM10 concentrations during weather inversions. On November 23, there was a loss of power at the PM10 Dunn Landfill instrument. Power was fully restored on December 4. The instrument was turned off for a few days later in December due to extremely cold temperatures.

2019 PM10 levels at Albany County Health Department and Dunn Landfill
Figure 3. PM10 Daily Averages July 27 to December 31, 2019

2020 Results

As noted in Figure 4, from January 1 to June 28, both monitors measured concentrations below the NAAQS for PM10. There were a few periods in January and February when the monitors were not operating because of extremely cold temperatures. There were four days at the end of June when the monitor at the Rensselaer City School lost power and no results were recorded. The PM10 instrument at the Rensselaer City School stopped working on June 29, possibly due to the high heat, and did not restart. Replacement parts were obtained and, due to delays related to the pandemic, the instrument repairs were not finalized until summer of 2021. The instrument began collecting data again on July 10, 2021.

2020 PM10 levels at Albany County Health Department and Dunn Landfill
Figure 4. PM10 Daily Averages January 1 to June 28, 2020

2021 Results

PM10 results were collected July 10 through the end of the year. As shown in Figure 5, both monitors measured concentrations below the NAAQS for PM10.

2021 PM10 levels at Albany County Health Department and Dunn Landfill
Figure 5. PM10 Daily Averages July 10 to December 31, 2021

2022 Results

PM10 results were collected January 1 through March 14 and are shown in Figure 6. The measured concentrations for both monitors are below the NAAQS for PM10. Throughout 2021 and 2022, the results collected at the Rensselaer City School have consistently been below measurements collected at the Albany County Health Department monitor.

2022 PM10 levels at Albany County Health Department and Dunn Landfill
Figure 6. PM10 Daily Averages January 1 to March 14, 2022

PFAS Investigation

New York State is continuing its actions to investigate and clean up emerging contaminants like per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) to ensure New Yorkers have access to clean water. Emerging contaminants, like PFAS, do not break down easily and persist in the environment, especially in water. Widespread use and releases of PFAS into the environment has led to PFAS detections in surface water, groundwater, animals, and humans worldwide. As more research is conducted into the prevalence of emerging contaminants in the environment, it is important to determine if a source of the contaminants can be identified in order to mitigate potential continuation of the contamination. DEC and other regulators conduct investigations to determine whether detections of the chemicals are due to specific localized contributing sources, the result of small releases of these chemicals in everyday activities, or the result of other sources.

DEC's ongoing investigations into emerging contaminants across the state have identified older landfills as potential sources of these chemicals in the environment. In response to community concerns, DEC commissioned surface water sampling in the vicinity of the Dunn Landfill, as well as on-site groundwater and leachate sampling, to test for PFAS and other contaminants.

This sampling effort was conducted in two phases. The first sampling phase was conducted in the spring of 2021. The second phase of sampling was conducted in the fall of 2021. DEC's investigation found low levels of PFAS in some nearby surface water and groundwater, although these did not provide a direct link to the Dunn Landfill as a contributor of PFAS or other off-site contamination.

The surface water and groundwater sampled in this study do not serve as sources of drinking water. However, when sampling surface water or groundwater, DEC often uses the state's Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) (10 parts per trillion (ppt) for both perflurooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) for public drinking water systems to consider whether additional investigation is necessary.

MCLs of 10 parts per trillion (ppt) for both PFOA and PFOS were not exceeded in any groundwater samples. One surface water sample, taken from an unnamed tributary to the Quackenderry Creek during the second phase, had a PFOA concentration of 11 ppt. The unregulated PFAS chemical, perfluorohexanoic acid (PFHxA) was found at a concentration of 33 ppt in samples from an on-site stormwater basin at the Dunn facility. Stormwater is managed according to the facility's DEC-required Stormwater Protection Plan, and the basin is required to be regularly inspected and monitored to ensure it functions as designed to prevent any negative impacts to public health or the environment.

The results from the two phases of sampling conducted in spring and fall of 2021 do not indicate that Dunn Landfill is currently a source of contamination to groundwater or surface water, for drinking parameters. DEC's monitoring of the facility is ongoing and the agency will continue to keep the public informed as additional data is compiled.

Results from the first sampling phase (PDF)

Results from the second sampling phase (PDF)

Enhanced Permit Review Process

DEC has determined to subject the Dunn facility's Solid Waste and Mining permit renewal applications to an enhanced permit renewal process as part of the state's ongoing strict regulatory oversight of the facility.

Based on recent census data, the community nearby the facility was confirmed as an Environmental Justice area and, therefore, DEC determined that increased public participation opportunities would be warranted through application of Commissioner Policy 29 on Environmental Justice. In addition, the enhanced permit renewal process will, in effect, treat the renewal application as a new application in accordance with and for the purposes of DEC regulations under the Uniform Procedures Act, specifically 6 NYCRR Part 621.11(h)(3), to ensure there is a transparent process that allows ample opportunity for the public to review and provide comments on the applications, and to include multiple public meetings, before DEC makes any final decisions on the applications.

S.A. Dunn's first public information meeting on the applications to renew the Dunn Mine and C&D Facility permits was June 14, 2022 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. The meeting was held both virtually and in-person at Rensselaer Junior/Senior High School. Meeting details are available on the Public Information Meeting Notice (PDF).

On August 26, 2022, DEC received S.A. Dunn's responses (PDF) to the public's questions and comments made at the June 14, 2022, meeting. In response to concerns raised by the community, DEC requested and received a transcript of the June 14, 2022 Public Information Meeting (PDF) from S.A. Dunn.

Permit Status

On January 13, 2022, S.A. Dunn submitted a permit renewal and modification application for the Dunn Mine and C&D Facility. On January 28, DEC sent a Notice of Incomplete Application (PDF) to the S.A. Dunn regarding their permit application submission. The facility resubmitted materials (PDF) on March 16. A second Notice of Incomplete Application (PDF) was sent to Dunn on March 30, with resubmission documents received from the facility on April 21(PDF) and September 8 (PDF).

If DEC determines the applications to be complete, DEC will require opportunities for public notice and comment.

Why is Dunn able to continue to operate past the expiration date stated in their current permits?

Just as the facilities DEC regulates must follow the law, DEC abides by its own statutory obligations and responsibilities, including meeting timeframes specified in the law for permitting actions and the processing of permit renewal applications. New York State laws, primarily the State Administrative Procedures Act (SAPA) and the Uniform Procedures Act (UPA), allow for a facility to continue operating if they meet certain permit renewal application requirements.

Enacted into law in 1975, SAPA Section 401(2) provides:

When a licensee has made a timely and sufficient application for the renewal of a license or a new license with reference to any activity of a continuing nature, the existing license does not expire until the application has been finally determined by the agency, and, in case the application is denied or the terms of the new license limited, until the last day for seeking review of the agency order or a later date fixed by order of the reviewing court, provided that this subdivision shall not affect any valid agency action then in effect summarily suspending such license.

SAPA Section 102(4) defines the term "license" to include "the whole or part of any agency permit, certificate, approval, registration, charter, or similar form of permission required by law."

The statute does not define the phrase "sufficient application for renewal," but DEC regulations 6 NYCRR Subpart 621.2(ad), promulgated under the Uniform Procedures Act (UPA) at Article 70 of the Environmental Conservation Law, provide the following definition for that term: "properly completed application forms, supplemental information and plans required by specific program regulations for renewing permits, and identification of any material changes in regulated operations or environmental conditions at the permitted facility or site."

What constitutes a "sufficient application for renewal" for purposes of SAPA Section 401(2) is different, and has a lower threshold, than what is required for a "complete" application for purposes of UPA.

In this case, the permit renewal applications for the Dunn facility were both timely and sufficient for purposes of SAPA Section 401(2) because they were submitted more than 180 calendar days prior to the permit expiration date and included properly completed application forms, supplemental information and plans required by specific program regulations for renewing permits, and identification of material changes in regulated operations or environmental conditions at the permitted facility or site; therefore, the existing permits are automatically extended under current New York law until the DEC makes a determination on the pending applications or such later date as provided by SAPA Section 401(2). However, the pending applications continue to be incomplete for purposes of UPA as DEC staff continues to wait for a complete response to the latest Notice of Incomplete Application, which DEC staff sent to the facility on March 30, 2022.

Permit Renewal and Modification Application Documents

May 2022 Submission

Environmental Justice Public Participation Plan (PDF) - Approved by DEC on May 27, 2022

March 16, 2022 Submission

Response to Notice of Incomplete Application (PDF)

January 13, 2022 Submission

Permit Application Cover Letter (PDF)

Part 360 Permit Application

Mining Permit Application (PDF)

Community Participation Plan (PDF)

Environmental Assessment Form

Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan