New York States Sues Big Apple over Trash Export

New York State doesn't want the Big Apple's trash trucks. New York State's Attorney General, Eliot L. Spitzer, filed a lawsuit against New York City in January for not properly accounting for the environmental impact of its trash export plan. The suit is based on complaints that the plan degrades the environment by relying on extra garbage trucks that pollute the atmosphere with foul odors, diesel exhaust and impermissible noise levels.

According to Peter H. Lehner, Spitzer's Environmental Protection Bureau chief, "Canal Street's air pollution now registers twice the federal recommended level. The extra truck traffic, begun in November, has increased the pollution level about 16 percent."

Trash once barged to the Fresh Kills landfill, Staten Island, N.Y., now leaves from Manhattan, the Bronx and Brooklyn. As the city prepares to close the facility before 2002 by gradually diverting shipments (about 7,500 tons per day), trucks are making an estimated 425,000 trips annually across bridges and tunnels, pounding thousands of street miles.

According to a Tri-State Transportation Campaign estimate, by the time Fresh Kills closes, trucks will have logged 700,000 trips across the Hudson River. In the Lincoln Tunnel, for example, refuse-truck traffic will increase 15 percent, the analysis says.

What's more, Fresh Kills' estimated closing costs would total $522 million over five years, including $180 million to export trash. Now, estimates have reached $622 million because of higher landfill search costs. The city had paid $51.72 a ton to Virginia landfills. However, recent bids have averaged $71.38 a ton.

The ballooning bill for landfill closure includes increased overtime and the cost of new trucks. Ultimately, the high cost of this truck-based plan - in terms of traffic, air pollution and price -will prompt city officials to examine barge port and rail alternatives.

The Giuliani administration has announced that it will release a revised long-term strategy for the waste within the next two months.