Down in the dumps
Fate of Cochecton transfer station uncertain
LAKE HUNTINGTON, NY — Before recycling centers, there were landfills. And before landfills, there were old-fashioned town dumps. At one time or another, 433 Mitchell Pond East Rd. has been all of these. Currently a trash and recycling station is operated there by Sullivan County Department of Public Works (SCDPW); its future is uncertain.
At the October 12 meeting of the Cochecton Town Board, Supervisor Gary Maas said the county may choose to discontinue its operation of the transfer station, effective December 31, 2016.
The county says the transfer station is a money-losing operation. But anyone who uses it knows it does a land-office business every Wednesday and Saturday, its regular operating days. SCDPW Commissioner Edward McAndrew says the county collects, on average, six tons of trash and recyclables daily from the site, more in peak tourism months.
McAndrew says it costs the county $130,000 to $140,000 annually to operate the station. Contributing to the operating costs are a lease agreement with the town of Cochecton at $15,000 per year, salary and benefits packages for site management and trucking staff, and the cost of transport and disposal at Seneca Meadow Landfill in the town of Seneca Lake.
Asked if revenues derived from sale of recyclables offset the cost of trash transport and disposal, McAndrew said, “No.” He added that recycling revenues fluctuate wildly, driven largely by global markets. And he said further that the county’s single-stream recycling makes it difficult to gauge profitability of individual recycling streams. Some streams are less profitable than others, electronics, “e-scrap,” especially so now. At present, the county has no electronics recycling, although McAndrew expects that to change when the county contracts with a new e-scrap vendor.
Western Transfer Station, the official name for the Lake Huntington facility, is one of six transfer stations currently operated by SCDPW. The other five are Monticello, Rockland, Ferndale, Mamakating and Highland. As its name implies, this station serves all of western Sullivan County and part of northeastern Pennsylvania as well. In addition to trash bag charges, out-of-state residents pay approximately $130 per year for residential use and $300 per year for commercial use, the same amounts county residents are charged via their tax bills.
Meeting spectators protested that bag fees are not routinely enforced, which led Cochecton Deputy Supervisor Ed Grund to say, “The transfer station operates on an honor system.”
Maas offered some tentative solutions to the dilemma: the town is willing either to renegotiate current lease terms or sell the site to the county; the county could increase dump fees by $1 per bag and/or increase fees for out-of-state residents; and there should be strict enforcement of dumping privileges and practices.
But as McAndrew noted, the sign on the transfer station gate reads “Temporary Solid Waste Disposal Facility.”