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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. 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. A community update (PDF) was provided in January 2020. 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.

Reducing Odors

Dunn Landfill installed an enhanced gas collection system for hydrogen sulfide and other gases. The system is comprised of vertical gas collection wells in the waste mass, as well as gas collection from the leachate collection system. Landfill gas is collected and sent to a permanent flare to burn the gases, which will reduce odors and other emissions. The system will be continuously adjusted, monitored, and improved to ensure continuous removal and destruction of landfill gases. The gas collection system and the flare are currently in the start-up phase. They will be undergoing initial testing and adjustments in order to maximize their efficiency. During this time, the system may experience periodic short-term outages, which may cause temporary odors near or downwind from the flare location. DEC will provide additional notice once this start-up phase is completed.

Hydrogen Sulfide Monitoring

From April to November 2019, DEC monitored for hydrogen sulfide (H2S) in the community around the landfill. The monitors were removed because of cold weather and reinstalled on April 6, 2020. 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 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.

On April 6, 2020, H2S instruments were installed around the Dunn Landfill. During the initial startup, two of the three monitoring locations (Figure 1) consistently operated and collected air samples for evaluation of H2S. For the first week, the soccer field monitor malfunctioned. During the periods of April 23 to 27 and May 26 to June 16, the cemetery monitor was not operating. As of August 3, the number of occurrences and concentrations when H2S has been detected has been very low (less than 1% of the measurements). The 2019 H2S results are available to view.

  • Soccer Field: 0.49% (79 of 15,960 observations) of the readings detected H2S and the maximum 10-minute reading was 0.013 ppm
  • Baseball Field:0.15% (24 of 15,975 observations) of the readings detected H2S and the maximum 10-minute reading was 0.005 ppm
  • Cemetery: 0.03% (4 of 11,991 observations) of the readings detected H2S and the maximum 10-minute reading was 0.008 ppm
Location of 2020 H2S monitors in relation to the Dunn Landfill

Figure 1. Map of 2020 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, 2019 at the Rensselaer City School. 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 (ACHD) (directly across the Hudson River from the Landfill).

As noted in Figure 2, from January 1 to June 28, 2020, 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). 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 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. Staff are assessing the necessary repairs. The 2019 PM10 results are available to view.

2020 PM10 levels at Albany County Health Department and Dunn Landfill

Figure 2. Particulate Matter (PM10) Daily Averages January 1 to June 28, 2020

Report Your Questions and Concerns

Odors

Call (518) 292-0449 (a designated 24-hour hotline) to report nuisance odors. Residents are encouraged to call the Hotline should they experience a significant odor 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 A. Whitcomb at jonathan.whitcomb@dec.ny.gov, with any questions or concerns about landfill operations.

Health-Related: Contact DOH 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)