Contract and payment issues continue around trash subsidies for Essex and Hamilton counties, decades after landfill closures
By Gwendolyn Craig
Essex and Hamilton counties could receive subsidies for trucking trash outside of the Adirondack Park, based on Gov. Kathy Hochul’s proposed $233 billion budget, but they still need to produce required waste management plans. The lack of the documents has resulted in the state withholding about $1 million from the last two years due to the ongoing contract matter.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation has withheld payments, it said, because the counties do not have “required local solid waste management plan(s).”
Hochul’s executive budget includes the usual annual subsidies of $300,000 to Essex County and $150,000 to Hamilton County. The payments have been included in the state budget annually since 1998 after former Gov. George Pataki called for the closure of all landfills in the Adirondacks. Hamilton and Essex are the only two counties wholly within the park.
Hochul’s budget also includes $500,000 to the DEC “for pre-closure and post-closure costs associated with Adirondack landfills pursuant to agreements with Essex County.” State budget officials noted the DEC may request and receive those funds on an as-needed basis. The last time such payments were budgeted was in 2018.
The DEC said the funding is to cover maintenance responsibilities at the former Essex County Landfill located behind the transfer station in Lewis.
But it’s unclear when the contract issue between the counties and DEC will be resolved and how long the payments will accumulate. The original contracts ended in 2018, but there have since been revisions and extensions.
The DEC said neither county has produced the required plans, and it has reached out to both to offer support.
Hamilton County Chairman Brian Wells said he is planning a meeting with Essex County to discuss the matter.
Essex County Chairman Shaun Gillilland did not respond to the Explorer, but in a previous interview expressed frustration with the DEC and state government.
The county leaders had also hoped for an increase in the subsidies, as tipping and transportation fees have gone up since 1998. In the various contracts, Essex County noted it delivers its solid waste to the Franklin County Landfill, Clinton County Landfill and the Hudson Falls incineration plant, “Adirondack Resource Recovery Facility,” now known as Wheelabrator. Hamilton County delivers its trash to the Fulton County landfill.
The state Legislature is holding budget hearings over the next few weeks. The final budget is due April 1.
Top photo: Waste arrives at Essex County’s transfer station in Lewis, from where it is trucked out of the Adirondack Park. Photo by Mike Lynch