December 2, 2021

Flow control revise in works

County renews focus on addressing costly deficiencies in law

Joe McInyre/staff photographer

A truck dumps refuse at the Cortland County landfill.

The Cortland County Legislature hopes to have a revised flow control law ready by the end of this month or September to address deficiencies in the law costing the county more than $400,000 a year in revenue.

The county is looking to hold drafting sessions to address where the law could be tightened and possibly special meetings when a revised version of the law is ready, said Legislature Clerk Eric Mulvihill.

The move follows a report last month by the Cortland Standard that a phrase in the flow control law that prohibits haulers from dumping trash from neighboring counties gives haulers a way to circumvent the law’s intent — one reason for the more than $400,000 in lost revenue. Mulvihill said the report helped to “refocus the attention” on addressing issues with the law.

“This (Solid Waste) committee expressed an urgency to respond to this,” Mulvihill said. “They recognize that the losses that are occurring, because we have potential loopholes in the law, are costing the taxpayers. Everyone involved is interested in tightening this legislation and making sure its meeting the intent the Legislature originally set forth.”

The county attorney’s office had been working on revising the law for several months, but County Attorney Karen Howe said last month there was no specific time frame on when it would be finished, because limited hours and other priorities intervene.

While the Legislature is looking for a revised version of the law in about a month or sooner, Mulvihill said, the Legislature is not going to “push Legal to rush something ahead.”

“We want it right, not wrong,” said Solid Waste Committee Chairman Donnell Boyden (R-Homer, Preble, Scott).

Flow control was enacted in November, requiring all haulers that pick up trash in the county to dump it at the county landfill. The law has brought in at least 9,000 more tons, but as of mid- July the tonnage was more than 800 tons short of its 33,000 budgeted estimate for 2018, said Landfill Supervisor Greg Ernst.

Under the section Disposal of Solid Waste in the law, one paragraph states: “Only solid waste generated within the County will be accepted at the County Landfill … Combined loads containing solid waste from within the County as well as from a contiguous County will not be accepted for disposal at the County Landfill.”

That means if a hauler with a truck mostly full of county trash picks up trash from one household outside the county, the trash in that truck cannot come to Cortland’s landfill, Ernst had said, adding a number of haulers did not participate because of it.

Landfill data received through a state Freedom of Information Law request show a handful of haulers have brought less trash to the landfill since flow control was enacted, compared to tonnage from the same period a year earlier. Some of the changes could be due to business fluctuations — a couple of new haulers began working in the county after flow control was enacted, increasing competition. However, the largest difference was with Leach’s Custom Trash Service, which
collects out-of-county trash.

Between flow control’s enactment in November and the beginning of June, Leach’s Custom Trash delivered 544 tons of solid waste to the landfill — most of it construction and demolition debris — according to county landfill records. In that same time span a year earlier, Leach collected more than 3,500 tons of solid waste, according to Leach’s annual transfer station report to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

If collections remain consistent from November 2017 to June, that means the county lost more than 3,000 tons of trash — or $195,000 at $65 a ton — that the flow control law intended it get. Over a full year, that would add up to 6,300 tons, or $400,000 in county revenue.

“Rather than attempt to comply with the vague and ambiguous flow control law, Leach’s has legally transported its waste to other, far less expensive facilities,” according to a statement from Leach’s Custom Trash.

Cortland County’s landfill data also show Cortland Sanitation, Country Meadow Trash Removal and Waste Management also dumped less trash at the landfill from November to early June, compared to the same time period the year prior.

However, between the three haulers the decrease totals 31 tons, a 2 percent drop between the three haulers.