County lawmakers seek to tighten up Ulster’s dumping laws

Incidents where construction and demolition debris apparently trucked in from downstate and New Jersey has been allegedly illegally dumped in Ulster have prompted county legislators into action.

If passed and signed by County Executive Pat Ryan, a new law would redefine the county’s legal definition of “refuse” to include industrial waste and dredge material along with garbage, even industrial waste that’s regulated and allowed by the Department of Environmental Conservation.

The legislation will amend Chapter 304 of the county code, which outlaws any dumping of “refuse material” produced outside the county within the county and limits local dumping operations to taking in 60 tons per week. Currently, the chapter defines refuse as “garbage, rubbish, industrial waste and dredge material”; the revamped law will define the outlawed material more thoroughly to avoid any misinterpretation.

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District 8 Legislator Laura Petit (D-Port Ewen) said she authored the local law in response to Joe Karolys’ controversial C&D waste dumping operation in Saugerties, which has left the town suspended between conflicting town and county laws and unable, despite stop-work orders from the town, county and state, to stop the daily parade of debris-dumping trucks coming in from downstate. Petit said a similar situation currently unfolding in the Town of Rochester was inspiration as well.

“I mean, just because it’s happening in Saugerties now doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen in the rest of the county, and I’ve heard rumors that there already is,” said District 1 Legislator Mary Wawro (R-Saugerties), who’s cosponsoring the measure. “I think we kind of thought [the Saugerties law] protected us and it has to be tweaked.”

If adopted, the new law will specifically outlaw concrete, brick, asphalt, asbestos, drywall, plaster, roofing materials, wood, metal, tiles, paint chips, ash, slag, coal, pieces of particle board, carpet and petroleum-contaminated soil from being dumped in Ulster. Separately and explicitly defined, the law will also prohibit the dumping of construction and demolition debris and enumerate precisely what C&D consists of: “uncontaminated solid waste resulting from construction, remodeling, repair and demolition of utilities, structures and roads … and uncontaminated solid waste resulting from land-clearing.”

Petit said the law is not only meant to protect the county’s environment from contaminated material, but to lay the groundwork for any future landfill operations within the county’s borders.

“The original law was put in so that when and if Ulster County put in a landfill, it could be specifically for Ulster County to use,” said Petit. “So it was to keep imported waste out. Unfortunately, it didn’t cover some of the more toxic waste that have come in as we’ve seen in the Town of Rochester, bringing up this very contaminated waste, C&D, brick etc. So [I authored the amendment] for two reasons: one is to protect the environment and the people so that these contaminates don’t get permanently deposited in the county and the other is to protect a future landfill, should it be built.”

The proposed law is scheduled be taken up by the legislature at its Sept. 17 meeting.

“Hopefully this will pass in the legislature and it will tighten what is acceptable waste and what can be brought into this community,” said Saugerties town councilwoman Leeanne Thornton. “Residents who have been impacted by the [Karolys] debris situation to encourage them to reach out to their county legislators.”

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