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Adirondack Park Agency approves bigger landfill for Ti paper mill

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The Adirondack Park Agency has approved a major expansion to a sludge landfill operated by International Paper in Ticonderoga. Yesterday's decision by the APA board was unanimous, despite objections from some neighbors.

As Brian Mann reports, company officials at IP say the new facility will allow the mill to continue operating for another three decades.

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Brian Mann
Adirondack Bureau Chief
When International Paper churns through all that wood and pulp, the paper mill in Ticonderoga also produces watery goo as a byproduct. That sludge is mixed with sand and packed into a nearby landfill run by the company.

APA staffer Tom Saehrig says that the paper mill's waste is no small quantity: "IP process 231,000 tons of solid waste annually at a cost of approximately $6 million to do the disposal of that waste each year."

But company officials have been warning since 2004 that they're running out of room. Yesterday the park agency approved a new 30-acre site near the mill. "We've been doing this permit-ing activity for several years now," said Stephen Regan, IP's environmental performance manager. "It's been a long process but the APA did their very thorough job to protect the environment and we're pleased with the result."

The APA received 5 letters from neighbors of the proposed landfill site, arguing that the project would impact their views, their air quality and their well water. "This is my backyard," wrote neighbor Dawn Belden, "so please don't let this move forward." Park commissioner Cecil Wray asked about those concerns. "I assume that the staff thinks that these specific objections raised by neighbors have been addressed by the permit and by IP," he said.

APA staff say they worked with IP and the Department of Environmental Conservation to minimize impact on neighbors. Sampling wells will monitor any leakage into local ground water. The state is also urging the company to plant new kinds of shrubs that would make the landfill mounds less visible. According to the APA's Tom Saehrig, the project's environmental repercussions have been thoroughly investigated. "The environmental review of this project has been very extensive. I can say we started a pre-app with IP and DEC in 2004. The APA and US Army Corps of Engineers have certainly reviewed the wetland impacts and wetland mitigation plan. We're satisfied we're certainly protecting as much wetland as possible to do this project and creating new wetland, new wetland habitat," he said.

But Tom Saehrig acknowledged that the landfill mounds will eventually eclipse some of the scenic views from neighboring properties. "They do have other views on their properties, to Vermont and north and south. But we feel that the overriding need for this project in Ticonderoga--unfortunately we can't do anything about the fact."

In the end the APA commissioners voted unanimously to approve the project which means landfills will open in 2014 and be operational until mid-century. IP's Stephen Regan says that the new 30-acre site was necessary to keep the mill operating and to protect more than 1300 jobs in the North Country. "Pulp and paper mill that we have in this day and age--you need to have an onsite landfill for it to be viable. If we weren't able to get this permit as well as other permits, we'd be running out of space in the next five years. So this is going to help ensure the viability of the mill for another 30-someodd years."

This project didn't face opposition from any of the Adirondack Park's environmental groups. Construction is expected to begin in 2012.

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