Return of an Ulster County landfill?

Seneca Meadows, destination for garbage from Ulster County (and many other places). Photo by Will Dendis.

Most of us beyond a certain age can remember that resounding war cry when Ulster County attempted, and failed, to locate a county landfill at Winston Farm just west of the Thruway exit in Saugerties. Protest songs were written. “Dump, dump the garbage dump!” and “Dump here? Never!” echoed all throughout the town. Murals were painted on buildings, fists were raised in the air, pitchforks located for militia practice.

It could happen again. After more than 30 years the Winston Farm remains vacant and available and time is running short for the county to adopt a new solid waste disposal strategy — maybe a county landfill.


Or so warned legislature chairwoman Tracey Bartels in her first state of the county address to the governing body on Tuesday night. 

Bartels, a non-enrolled six-termer from Gardiner, didn’t mention Winston Farm, or any place else, in a 20-minute address. She did issue a call to action. 

“We must take action. The status quo is not sustainable. There are no easy answers,” she said. Ulster County Ulster County’s Resource Recovery Agency, created by state legislation sponsored by former assemblyman Maurice Hinchey in 1986, after the county legislature rejected a county landfill, yearly ships 130 tons of garbage to Seneca Meadows near Syracuse, she said. That landfill is rapidly filling up and the county can expect a substantial increase in fees by the end of the year.

A major part of the problem is that the Chinese are no longer accepting recyclables, meaning loads going forward will be heavier and revenues from recycles far lighter.

Bartels also spoke to the possibility of a regional approach to waste disposal. A regional planning consortium, “GUS” (for Greene, Ulster, Sullivan) was established last year and has produced studies that indicate a regional solution is viable, if not expensive. 

Ulster alone is spending $7 million a year on Seneca Meadows, a good portion of it on trucks and fuel for transport. For context, $7 million more than pays off the $92 million county jail, its bonds cost $6 million a year. Seven million bucks is equal to about 9 percent of the county property tax levy.

Should the county go in that direction, it then comes down to location and state approval. Two generations ago, Albany was hell-bent on removing polluting local landfills. There is no indication of change in that policy. As for location, even a hint of a landfill in any “host” community will set off a firestorm of opposition. “Never Again?” For sure.

But Bartels is “committed to action.” She will shortly name a special committee of six legislators and three members of the RRA to research and offer recommendations. It would appear she already knows the score.

Hugh Reynolds is an occasional contributor to Ulster Publishing. His regular posts can be found at

There are 3 comments

  1. ITR

    First off, Nice to see Hugh again on these pages. Second. CSX Railroad runs a garbage train thru Kingston all the time. Ulster county should look into how much it would cost to load up and add a few cars to that train.

  2. Robert Aiello

    I am considering running for my former seat in District 2, in the Town of Saugerties for the Ulster County Legislature. I spent 18 years in the Legislature and sat on just about every committee through-out my tenure. I created a committee to study the impact of Lyme disease on our Ulster County residents. This on going issue continues to be prevalent in our County and is not taken seriously enough in attempting to understand and treat this medical crisis. I have created an economic plan some 20 plus years ago and it was ignored by both major political parties. Governor Cuomo has created something similar for the Tech City site, making it a medical facility.

    I have seen the decline in party politics over the years and the hand-writing is on the wall as I see it. Residents may not agree with all party platforms and perhaps are now simply interested in the candidate and what that individual stands for and what that person can do for Ulster County residents.

    I am a life long area resident, having grown up in Glasco. I have degrees in Business Administration and Human Services, completing my degree at Empire State College. I have served in the U. S. Army in 1968. I have owned and operated my own business, a hair cutting salon, since 1977. I published a successful memoir of my years growing up in the small town of Glasco and what life was like in an Italian-American community. My wife, Christine and I reside in Barclay Heights and our daughter, son-in-law and their family reside in Norfolk., MA.

    Since I am now semi-retired, the time has come for me to again try to work with residents of Saugerties. I would like to be given the opportunity to once again be our representative in the Ulster County Legislature.

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