Department of Environmental Conservation

D E C banner

Dunn Landfill Air Quality Study

Here is DEC's latest community update (PDF) for the Dunn Landfill.

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 0.010 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 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 - November 21, 2019, H2S measurements were collected from four locations around Dunn Landfill. The number of occurrences when H2S has been detected has been very low (less than 1% of the measurements) 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 0.010 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 and 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 indicate 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 are highly unlikely to result in long term health effects. All H2S monitors were removed on November 12, 2019 because the instruments do not operate well when outside temperatures are below freezing.

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).

As noted in Figure 2, both monitors are 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). On September 19, 21 and 22, PM10 concentrations increased at the Van Rensselaer Elementary 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 23-24, 2019, 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 becomes airborne and raises 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 December 19 (4 days), January 9, January 17 (7 days), January 30 (2 days), February 14 (2 days), and February 20 (2 days) due to extremely cold temperatures.

Similar concentrations of PM10 found at the Albany County Health Department and Dunn Landfill

Figure 2. Particulate Matter (PM10) Daily Averages July 27, 2019 to February 23, 2020

Odor Hotline

Report nuisance odors 1-800-457-7362 toll-free 24-hour hotline or call (518) 292-0449.

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 website)

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