Email to the DEC and the Town of Perinton

The following is an email Gary McNeil sent to the DEC on December 6th, 2017; 


I have looped in Supervisor Barker to this email chain. I wanted to accomplish two things. One, to follow up on our email correspondence to see if the DEC has met with WM yet, and two, to provide both the DEC and the Perinton Town Board the data that the Facebook group has collected between 11/4 and 11/30. My ultimate goal is to try and get you both in the same room for a meeting in order to discuss both the DEC and Town's plans going forward in relation to the odor issue. Although we have only been organizing the affected community for 5 weeks, I fear that for many in the area this is already getting to a tipping point. The odor has continually gotten worse through the month of November, and the first few days of December have been horrendous. The odor frequency, intensity, and distance of travel is all increasing at an alarming rate.

The people of Perinton are prideful of their community and will not tolerate the odor for much longer. WM told me on 11/9 that they needed 6 months to fix their infrastructure problems. That is unacceptable for this community. There are 10k+ residences affected by the odor over the last month. 1300 people have joined the Facebook group, but there are many more that are not on social media or are unaware of the group. They have no idea there is a way to log their complaints. As we plot the location of each complaint on a map, we are seeing increases in complaints 5+ miles away (we have removed outliers for the sake of integrity). Businesses that utilize the outdoor environment to serve their patrons are starting to get worried that this will not be resolved for Spring weather, specifically in the village of Fairport. The Northside/Dudley elementary school teachers and administrators are complaining of the odor seeping into their halls. Our kids should not have to deal with this.

The community needs the assurance of both the DEC and the Town of Perinton that this is at the top of the priority list. We should not be forced to spend countless hours compiling complaint data and making a case that our quality of life is compromised. People have lived in this community at the same location for 30+ years and have not had to deal with the landfill odor until more than a handful times a year until the last 6 months, when it has gotten out of hand. This is not only a handful of neighborhoods affected, it is a large swath of the Town and Village. There should be as close to a zero tolerance policy as possible when Landfills are located this close to a community as heavily populated as Perinton.

Six months ago WM emailed us that road construction over an old cell was causing the odor increase (June to September). Recently, they have told us it is infrastructure related (pipe clogs, vacuum issues). Others, including the DEC at a recent meeting, have reported that the trains coming in from NYC and other areas are sitting too long and cause odors when they are unsealed and dumped. Yet others have reported that the gas WM is required to run through the flare is too much for the flare(s) to handle, resulting in the gas being released.

I don't know exactly what the source of the odor is, and the community is concerned that WM and the DEC don't know either. It's an embarrassment that the DEC oversight has been insufficient and led to the current situation, and that the Town's contract is not more protective of it's residents. The communication coming out of both entities has also been less than ideal. People want to know that an investigation is open, what possible repercussions could be, and if the odor will be guaranteed to not come back more than 4-5 times per year. They also want to know that the expansion into Macedon will not result in future issues for Perinton residents.

Regarding the data attached, it is alarming. If more people affected knew about our FB group, the data would be astronomical. We are working to make that happen. The first few days of December data is showing at 3x the averages of November. The perception right now is that we are losing this town, it's identity, and many of the reasons we all love to live here. I'm almost at a loss that I even have to write this email and be involved to the extent I am. I run operations for a business based out of Tampa, FL, I am not a community activist and should not have to be dealing with this problem.

I will send the password separately and look forward to hearing from both of you.


DEC/Town Supervisor Correspondence

The following are Gary McNeil's notes from his correspondence with DEC/Town Supervisor on November 17th, 2017

I had some correspondence on Wednesday with the DEC and had a meeting with Supervisor Barker on Thursday. Some info for those interested:

DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation)

  • The Region 8 Director of the DEC Paul D'Amato confirmed that the High Acres site is having issues this year with the odor, and my contact with the DEC was not the first contact they had with the public about the issue.
  • WM has acknowledged there are issues at the site, and they are now required to attend a meeting at Mr. D'Amato's office in early December to describe the additional measures they have currently planned to address the odor, and when those measures will be fully implemented. The DEC staff will suggest further measures if they feel WMs plan is not sufficient.
  • In their experience there is no immediate "switch" that can be flipped to turn the odor off once a landfill starts to have odor issues. They first need to determine the source (gas vs operational), then address the cause.
  • He thinks that residents documenting the date, time, location, duration, and type of smell is helpful.
  • His team will be onsite more frequently to oversee corrective actions. He is open to meeting with me after the WM meeting in early December.

Supervisor Barker:

  • The town met with WM this week to ensure WM was proactively investigating the odor. Multiple town officials were at the meeting, including town counsel. The town plans to hold WM accountable to all clauses in the contract.
  • WM attributed their recent problems (this weeks horrific gas/garbage smells) to piping issues, but no additional details were provided.
  • WM did not tell the town they needed 6 months to fix the problem. They did not give a timeline like they did when Mike and I were there.
  • He is unaware of any active DEC investigation.
  • He has been contacted by FCSD officials as well as Senator Funke's office this week.
  • He is supportive of our efforts to track data, spread the word about how to log complaints with WM, and get concerned residents to the Conservation Board meeting that WM has to attend.
  • The Conservation Board meeting is tentatively scheduled for 1/16 at the Town Hall. They are moving it to room large enough to seat 200 people, give or take. The more people there, the better.
  • This year is 60/40 in terms of Macedon vs. Perinton waste disposal. Next year it will be 70/30, and it will continue to trend in that direction. As that happens, revenue from WM will decrease as a percentage of the Perinton budget, and will eventually be a flat fee.
  • On the other hand, Macedon will see an increase in revenue from their contract with WM. Macedon has approved the landfill hill on their side to reach 200 feet HIGHER than the Perinton side. While that will take many years, it is worth noting that the hill may eventually look awkward or tiered as it moves into the Macedon side.

My Thoughts:

  • There appears to be some coordination, or at least verification, between representatives to make sure they are all aware of the issue and putting pressure on WM to find resolution.
  • The DEC is taking action, but did they formally hold an investigation? Is it closed? Is it open? Do they plan on holding one? Are the findings public? Getting WM to present WM findings on what the odor is isn't enough in my opinion. The DEC should be doing an independent investigation into why the odor is occurring so frequently, and why it is so strong.The public should get to see those results. I will be visiting Avon in early December to ask these types of questions. We also need to know if the DEC is looking at the complaint log and if the WM complaint log is skewed. Does the DEC know the true extent of the problem?
  •  I expressed my concerns on the lack of transparency for the residents of Perinton. We don't know what's causing the issue, how serious it is, if it is feasible to fix, and if the fix will be permanent. This needs to be addressed by someone...whether it's WM information that is verified by the DEC, or the town, or the DEC itself.
  • The Conservation Board members are the ones that will advise Supervisor Barker on how to move forward in dealing with the issue. Showing up at the meeting on 1/16 and laying out our data/concerns will be very important in terms of helping them make their decisions.
  • With Macedon about to get more revenue than they will know what do with, and a less populated area to complain down the road once it turns into a PR problem for them, I think it may make sense to get in front of the Macedon Town Board and let them know what they are getting into. I'm not sure if anyone has reached out to the Macedon Supervisor yet, but if they are made aware now of what we are dealing with, they won't be able to say they had no clue in 10 years once they are dealing with the fallout of adding all the garbage on their side.

It's been a nice break having two days in a row with no odor in Magnolia. Hopefully that continues into the weekend and the holiday. Thanks to everyone who is helping with the fliers. Perinton is an older community and there are a lot of residents not on FB and not aware there is a way for their voice to be heard regarding this matter. I think what we are doing will help tremendously.

Waste Management On-Site Visit Notes

The following is provided by Gary McNeil after his on-site visit with Waste Management on November 9th, 2017. 

Michael Merlo and I visited WM this afternoon. I'm going to try and separate the information provided from my thoughts in the summary below. Information posted first, thoughts down below. We went there representing ourselves as concerned residents. I'm sure Mike will follow up with anything I left out.


    • WM is aware of the FB group and has people inside the group that are feeding them information. - The landfill is permitted to deposit 3500 tons/day. They currently take in about 3000 tons/day, which has been consistent for the last several years.
    • The state oversees the air quality requirements (DEC/EPA). WM brings in a third party called GHD Consulting to run air tests. The tests are scheduled ahead of time (not random) and are completed quarterly. WM pays for the service. We did not ask specifics on what is tested for. WM has never been cited for an air quality violation.
    • The DEC is the governing body when it comes to odor emanating from the landfill. WM does not have internal guidelines/policies related to acceptable levels of odor emanating from the landfill. The DEC does not provide WM guidance/policies describing acceptable levels of odor emanating from the landfill.
    • WM believes they have more vertical wells at the site than is required by law. They install/maintain the vertical wells 1-2 times per year, while the horizontal wells, of which there are much less, are an ongoing work in progress when it comes to installation and maintenance.
    • Approximately 3 weeks ago they installed 1 OdorBoss unit that "neutralizes" the odor. They are running a demo of the product. No plans were communicated on how this technology would be invested in once the demo is completed.
    • WaterBoss units are located around the premises utilizing "essential oil" type products to cover the odor. These are running 24/7.
    • WM spends $400k per year on falcons in order to keep Seagulls away.
    • Complaints made by residents are tracked BY COMPLAINT. Tess keeps a log of each complaint in a "database". As an example, I complained Tuesday night at 9:55pm, and Wednesday night at 10pm. That counts as two separate complaints in their log according to WM. It is not done by household.
    • According to WM, 90% of the time they dispatch an employee to confirm the complaint during business hours. - They would prefer phone calls to the 24/7 hotline, not emails.
    • The WM staff onsite and the DEC rep all have real time access to the complaint database.
    • The DEC rep (Dave) is onsite approximately every other day. His boss (Mark) is onsite a few times a month. The DEC office is located right across the hall from Tess's office and there is daily interaction regarding the complaints.
    • WM sees the DEC role as not telling WM what to do, but making sure they are doing what they are supposed to be doing according to regulations, and that they are taking corrective action accordingly (when there is an issue).
    • The Conservation Board Town Meeting historically has been a simple meeting where WM presents operational data, permit updates, and a snapshot of the past year. Residents have not historically attended this meeting and there have been no issues at this meeting in the past.
    • The odor emanating from the landfill this summer was primarily due to road construction. There was a road that was on top of a cell that they decided to tear up. By tearing it up, it caused exposure to the inside of the cell for extended periods of time, resulting in the uptick of odor during those months.
    • The odor emanating from the landfill the past few nights/mornings was primarily due to a pipe situation related to clogs and subsequent remediation. The pipe infrastructure is old (25 years old in some areas).
    • WM has had operational issues in the last few months which has resulted in the uptick of odor occurrences. WM believes they can correct the operational issues within 6 months, if not sooner. The goal is to get back to historical odor occurrence rates that the community deemed tolerable. They feel they have a track record of 30+ years of being a good neighbor and can get back to that level.
    • Corporate WM is aware of the local site situation. There have been multiple meetings the last few weeks between the local management team and the corporate team. Cost is not an issue in correcting the issue.
    • The current mix of local waste vs. waste from outside the area is 50/50. Historically it has gotten to 70/30 both ways, and changes on a yearly basis, dependent on agreements and contracts.
    • Trains arrive nightly Sunday through Thursday. They are completely sealed when they arrive, as they are moved from the train to a truck, and as the truck transports the waste to it's final location. At that point the container is opened and dumped. The process of unloading trains goes on all day, everyday.
    • Per WM, NYC waste is not the cause of the uptick in odor in any way (during transport or make up of the waste).
    • There have been conversations between the town board and WM over the last few months in regards to the uptick in odor occurrences.
    • WM is responsible for the development of Perinton into what it is today. The aquatic center, trails, parks, and other town features were all part of the WM/Town agreement/relationship. The town has developed without the need for debt as a result of the relationship, and taxes are lower due to the relationship.
    • WM sees the town as a partner. There is a fire house onsite where the fire department runs drills. There is about to be a shooting range on site where FPD and Macedon PD will be able to practice.

    My personal thoughts:

    • I figured WM would be aware of this group and would have people in the group that provide them info. Makes no difference in my opinion. if you're the mole, congratulations, you've successfully gone under cover in a FB group. You should feel good about yourself.
    • No surprise they didn't provide details on what the actual problem is, although they did admit they have one. I can't verify anything that was told to me, so who knows if road construction caused summer issues and if aging pipes caused the issue from the last two nights. I'd almost rather have it be the NYC waste, which they are adamant is not the cause. At least there would be something definitive to point to. If it's aging infrastructure, how bad is it? Do they have a handle on it? Can it be corrected in 6 months (some of us have heard that story before)? How long has this been on their radar? What exactly does the town know about the inner workings of the pipes and what their lifespan is? All follow up questions for future meetings.
    • They claimed the complaints are logged and reported by actual complaint, not by household. We'll see once the actual report is obtained from the DEC or presented at the upcoming meeting.
    • My wife and I have complained many times the last 6 months and only once have they sent someone to check on the odor, so I'm not sure where the 90% dispatch rate came from.
    •  No surprise that there are no guidelines/policies on odors.
    • A few times it was mentioned that our complaints have gone out as far as Gananda and Penfield; WM feels those are false complaints caused by businesses around those residents. I think our data will support our own conclusions at the end of the day. If we have outliers, we can remove those locations.
    • They really pushed for phone calls, and not emails. I told them we don't trust they will track phone calls, and we will keep written records via email (and other methods).
    • I'm really conflicted about the fire house and the shooting range for the police department. I understand the use of the land, but it adds to the conflict of interest IMO.
    • Which side will the town take if the odor continues? Who knows...I'd like to keep my kids in the school system, live on the same side of town I grew up in, and retire in the house we moved to 2 years ago which has the best neighbors anyone can ask for (outside of WM). We fully expected 4-5 times per year, not 4-5 times per week of odor. My goal is to end the odor nuisance, nothing more, nothing less. WM wants to do business at that site for 30 more years. They are a $15 billion company that gets sued all the time (they made both those points very clear). There are a few different ways this can get resolved, time will tell which way this goes...

    Next Steps:

    • Continue to gather information, spread the word, stay engaged with this group, and attend upcoming meetings. The Town says they are aware and engaged, so (while participating) I will give them some time to see if they can come up with a solution. WM wants 6 months to fix their problem, whatever it is. Personally, and I hate to say this, but I don't trust either group at this point. They have a 30+ year relationship which has been mutually beneficial and most likely runs deeper than we'll ever know. Until the town takes tangible action, or WM makes the odor dissipate to something we are able to tolerate, I'll remain skeptical and keep all options on the table. They started the clock by asking for 6 months. If this situation doesn't get addressed then residents need to fend for themselves.
    • I'm going to hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. This group should do the same IMO. That means staying engaged, attending meetings, making phone calls to representatives, sending email complaints, and making phone call complaints. I think we should continue to organize. - There may be residents that think media coverage can help at this point, or even legal representation. To each his own. Having met with both the Town and WM, and having read posts from very informed group members the last 2 days, I don't think I'm going to get involved in either of those two options at this point. I think there is more to play out over the next few months, so I'm going to try and stay patient.

    Thanks for everyone's effort so far, please keep it up. Living in this town is worth fighting for at this point. Sorry again for the long post...

    Town Board Meeting - 11/08/2017

    The following statement is from Gary McNeil on November 8th, 2017 to the Perinton Town Board;

    I’m here tonight to inform our representatives of a growing concern to a large number of Perinton residents. The concern centers on the increase in frequency, strength, and radius of the odor emanating from the Waste Management landfill. In the last several weeks, residents have started the process of organizing in hopes of creating change. Based on data collected the odor can clearly be defined as a nuisance to the every-day lives of people on the eastside of town. Most long term residents within a 4 mile radius of the landfill have reported a significant uptick in occurrences, which is having an immediate negative effect on their quality of life, and will soon start to have the same effect on their home values. In a matter of two weeks, a group of 1k individuals have come together to voice concerns. Group members are documenting written and verbal complaints made to WM, collecting data on each occurrence, and planning group meetings to further organize and formulate a plan forward.

    As representatives of Perinton residents, you should be aware that this is happening in the community you serve. People love living in this community, but the threshold of odor that people are willing to tolerate is being exceeded. While most that live within a 4 mile radius of the landfill will tell you that some odor is to be expected, going from 4-5 times a year to 4-5 times a week is a 50x increase, and it will drive people out of this community.

    I grew up 3 miles from the landfill and spent over 20 years in that house in Country Downs, and not once during my childhood did I smell the odor from that location. After moving away for 10 years, my family moved back to Fairport and lived in Mason Valley from 2012 to 2015. We smelled the odor a handful of times each year. In 2015 we moved to Magnolia Manor, which is about 1.5 miles from the landfill. Prior to purchasing the house we researched the effects of the landfill on that neighborhood. We were confident that WM had shown the ability manage the odor at acceptable levels of 4-5 times per year. The current data is showing that the dynamic has changed. WM no longer has control over the odor they are releasing from the site. 4-5 times per year has turned into 4-5 times per week. This isn’t the problem of 1 or 2 neighborhoods.  The data shows that the entire eastside of this community, which is comprised of thousands of households, can’t live with the current results.

    Our group will continue to organize, gather data, engage WM, the DEC, and local representatives in discussion, but ultimately, if change doesn’t occur in a timely manner, media coverage and litigation may be required. As board members, Perinton residents have an expectation that even if you don’t have the ability to enforce regulations over WM to control the odor, you will be an advocate for change, oversight, and ultimately making sure that prior decisions made by the board which have led to our current situation are rectified.

    Thank you for your time.