Here we go again, folks. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is reviewing another permit application for a new waste-by-rail transfer station: Peconic Environmental Services. The permit application proposes shipping the tonnage of up to 5,300 additional large, Plate F rail gondolas of “C&D Residue” into NYC from Suffolk County annually. All of these rail cars of landfill-bound waste will be handled by the New York & Atlantic Railway and CSX in and around Fresh Pond Yard.

In response to the permit application, on October 20, 2022, Council Member Bob Holden submitted a blistering public comment to DEC. He said the permit should be denied unless New York State addresses community problems that already can be anticipated. Council Member Holden’s letter specifically refers to adverse community impacts caused by a lack of state waste-by-rail containment standards. What does the Peconic Environmental Services application disclose that points to how this industry dumps problems and costs on neighborhoods? What happens to your family when they load waste odors, blowoff, and leachate into rail gondolas with open tops and drains in the bottom?

The problem of foul odors coming from rail gondolas of “C&D Residue”

The Peconic Environmental Services permit application discloses information that points to why rail cars hauling “C&D Residue” can emit foul odors and leachate. The application discloses that the transfer station dumps its potential leachate and odor problems into rail gondolas that they ship “away” into your neighborhood! The application says: “FLOOR DRAINS – The facility shall not collect leachate and store it in underground tanks. These are prone to clogging and produce foul odors. Instead, the concrete slab shall be pitched towards the center region of the tipping floor. Moisture is typically absorbed within the C&D material. In the event standing water is discovered, absorbent pads or booms shall be utilized and then disposed of with the C&D material.”

The problem of stinking leachate draining out the bottom of the rail car

The Peconic Environmental Services permit application says they will use the same type of open rail gondolas that are already being used for “C&D Residue”-by-rail, with railroad compliant tarps. These gondolas are open at the top and have drains in the bottom. The railroad compliant tarps used today, under the CSX tariff, are pervious orange mesh that allows precipitation to enter the rail gondola. Because of the way the bottom of the rail gondolas are shaped, and because they are never completely emptied, filthy leachate both collects in the bottom of the rail car and drains out in your neighborhood.

The problem of waste blowoff polluting community air

Since the waste is not completely contained within the rail cars, the cars emit clouds of dusty C&D blowoff in neighborhoods, as they are hauled, classified, and the wind blows through them. And yet the Peconic Environmental Services application says they will test it… “(e) Should any fill material or residue leave the facility for reuse, it shall be analyzed in accordance with the sampling and analysis requirements outlined in section 360.13(e) of Part 360. A minimum of one analysis is required for every 1000 cubic yards of fill material and must follow the criteria outlined in section 360.13(f) of Part 360”

Why would the applicant have to promise to test? What is NYS concerned about finding in the “C&D”? According to what is in the list below, it’s toxic pollution! This material is crushed and dumped into rail gondolas that regularly emit possibly contaminated dust that no one is testing into community air!
Analytical parameters. Fill material samples must be analyzed for:
(i) the Metals, PCBs/Pesticides, and Semi-volatile organic compounds listed in subdivision 375-6.8(b) of this Title;
(ii) asbestos if demolition of structures has occurred on the site;
(iii) volume of physical contaminants, if present, based on visual observation; and
(iv) Volatile Organic Compounds listed in subdivision 375-6.8(b) of this Title, if their presence is possible based on site events such as an historic petroleum spill, odors, photoionization detector meter or other field instrument readings.
N.Y. Comp. Codes R. & Regs. Tit. 6 § 360.13 – Special requirements for predetermined beneficial use of fill material

Senator Joe Addabbo, Assembly Members Hevesi and Barnwell, and Congress Member Grace Meng have tried to enact legislation to establish standards for containment of waste in a rail car to protect communities. However, today all that “protects” our families from what is in the “C&D Residue” that blows and drains out of rail gondolas is that orange mesh. Thank you, Council Member Holden for telling New York State this has to stop!