Environmental Efforts in the North Country

How people of the Adirondack Region have tried to preserve


Story and photos by Nicole Weber

New York's Adirondack Mountains hold various ecosystems that are home to hundreds of organisms. Being so complex and diverse in characteristics the Adirondacks are a great template for conservation efforts.

Only 2.6 million acres are considered protected state land, which became the Adirondack Forest Preserve in 1892. The Adirondack Park also contains wetlands, waterways and dwellings among the mountains.

what's this pic about?

View of the Lyonmountain from the New Land Trust.

One resource and conservation effort that exists among the Adirondack Mountains is the Adirondack Research Consortium. “The Adirondack Research Consortium is a non-profit (organization) dedicated to research on important issues dealing with the Adirondack Park,” says Executive Director Daniel T. Fitts.

The ARC works as a forum for scientist and business corporations to meet and discuss environmental issues pertaining to the Adirondacks.

Another resource, which is helping to protect the conditions of the land surrounding the Adirondacks, is the City Council of Plattsburgh, NY in Clinton County. The city council discusses what they can do to help Plattsburgh be an environmentally conscience city. City Council has discussed solutions for recycling and alternative usage of certain products, as well as organizing events such as Earth Day education and celebration programs.

A recent issue that city council dealt with was the re-closing of a landfill. “A trench was built around the landfill so leaching will be seen and taken care of properly,” says Calnon.

Council director James Calnon says that Plattsburgh’s city council discusses environmental issues when they are present.

Casella Waste Systems is a company everyone is Clinton community has a connection to whether they know it or not. Casella is the Clinton County’s pick-up and waste disposal company and has been since 1996. Northern Sanitation is also another private company, which conducts waste management in the Clinton County owned by Casella Waste Systems.

In the past Casella has met with people in city council and discussed solutions for recycling and garbage drop-off.

Mayor of Plattsburgh, Donald M. Kasprzak, says he would definitely work with Casella (directly) if he could and had the opportunity, but at the moment Casella only works with the Clinton County government.

“Casella’s ongoing environmental efforts and goal is a continuation of developing sustainable, environmentally friendly, economic development models and to continue pursuing more innovative ways to further improve its integrated waste solutions.”

Casella is the first and only waste management company that has partnered with the EPA’s (Environmental Protection Agency) climate leaders program. EPA proposed for all partners to lower their carbon emissions by 10% by year 2012. Casella’s partnership with EPA is credited for preventing 100,000 tons of carbon from being emitted.

Casella’s efforts have taken methane gas, which is produced from garbage decomposing, and has reused the resource to produce energy to heat the plant, as well as provide electricity to houses in the area surrounding the plant. Casella started conducting this process in the Rochester, New York region in 2005, and as well with Clinton County in 2008. This action is saving the usage of fossil fuels and by doing so is helping to lower the emissions of greenhouse gases.

what's this pic about?View of a pond (Wetlands) in the New Land Trust.

 

Craig Squier, Manager of Clinton County landfill, says “Casella’s ongoing environmental efforts and goal is a continuation of developing sustainable, environmentally friendly, economic development models and to continue pursuing more innovative ways to further improve its integrated waste solutions.”

By reusing a waste by-product, Casella is not only moving harmful garbage that can suffocate environmental processes such as plant growth, the movement of animals, and the cleanliness of lakes and rivers; Casella is also helping to lower the amount of finite, harmful fuels that are used and emitted into the atmosphere.

Mayor Kasprzak says, “I think it’s an absolute excellent way for Casella to utilize a by-product of their waste.” Kasprzak says he fully supports the process, “ I like the way they think of future ways to use fuel efficiently.”

Squier explains that the methane gas is turned into another form of energy by being plumbed, like water in pipes, into a scrub where it turns into a gas, and from there is converted into a fuel source for the four engines Casella currently owns.

Each engine can produce up to 1.6 mega watts of electricity. That is enough energy to provide electricity for two to three thousands homes, which as a matter of fact is what Casella is using the energy for right now. This amount of energy is also the equivalent amount of what 50,000 cars give off.

Currently Casella is using three engines and is producing enough energy to provide electricity for eight thousand homes in the surrounding area of Clinton County. Casella hopes to use the fourth engine within a few months.

There’s a bit of a sticky situation though. In order to use the fourth engine Casella has to receive more garbage. Energy cannot be produced without the methane gas, which comes from the decomposing of garbage. Who would’ve thought that one man’s trash is really another man’s treasure?

“It does make sense in the long run. The [companies] who will be making money for the future are those who can solve these problems of resource, restoration and renewal.”

The electricity produced by the engines is not directly distributed to houses but is sold and distributed to a regional electric company. The electricity is no different from any other electricity and is no higher or lower in cost.

“It’s a lot like wind and solar power, says Squier referring to the alternative fuel source, it helps defray New York’s electric cost (being that it is produced ‘off of the grid’) and is much more cost efficient.”

The electricity Casella is producing is created by themselves and is not producing any carbon emissions. This kind of energy is referred to as being ‘off the grid’. (‘Off the grid’ meaning the grid of the map). The most commonly known ‘off the grid’ fuel is solar power.

Dispersing the amount of natural resources used is smart for economical reasons, to keep the sustainability of a company afloat, but will also benefit the environment in which we live in.

“It does make sense in the long run,” says Vice President of Casella Waste Systems Joseph Fusco. “The [companies] who will be making money for the future are those who can solve these problems of resource, restoration and renewal.” "Those who can solve the problem will be rewarded.”

Currently Casella has 11 landfills throughout New England out of which four are producing electricity using methane gas. Casella Waste Systems’ landfills also recycle. Clinton County alone recycles around 6,500 tons of recyclables per year. Casella’s future environmental plans are to use hybrid and natural gas trucks.

“Using sustainable development, and being good stewards of the earth is not only good for ourselves but future generations. We need to remember to care about the earth not only now, but make sure the environment is as sound for the future generation,” says Fitts.

Natural resources are finite. Trying to lower carbon emissions will always benefit the future. Whether we will see the impact, or our grandchildren’s children will see the impact is up in the air.

Did you know you could power your house from garbage?