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Concern Over Landfill Valid

It is easy to understand why many Jefferson County residents oppose a New York company’s proposal to reopen the Crossridge Landfill. In essence, they wonder why they should give a regulatory framework that failed them once a second chance to get it right.

For years, landfill owner Joseph Scugoza has been battling lawsuits over the facility. Last year, he proposed selling it to Greenway Reclamation LLC of Garden City, New York.

Greenway’s plan is that it would conduct environmental remediation work at the site, in exchange for permission to reopen it as a landfill.

Many Jefferson County residents, along with local government officials, oppose the plan. On Monday night, Scugoza hosted a public meeting in an effort to change public opinion.

“This is quick. This is the best way we can resolve the issues. It’s a good, honest plan that saves the environment and creates jobs,” Scugoza told those at the meeting.

Few, if any, people in attendance were sympathetic. One man summed up opposition to the proposal with this rhetorical question to Scugoza: “How can we trust your word on this. How can we trust Greenway’s?”

Scugoza’s response: “With proper bonding and proper oversight, there’s no issues.”

That certainly is how landfill regulation is supposed to work. It did not 30 years ago, however.

Opened in 1988, the landfill “was installed without a liner,” Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District stated in a written document last year. By 1990, the facility had been closed.

Yet it has continued to be both a public nuisance and an environmental challenge since then. How did that happen? Why should Jefferson County residents trust that something similar could not happen again?

That is the crux of the problem. Until local and state officials can and do provide believable answers to the latter question, the Greenway proposal will — and should — remain in limbo.

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