The 3,000 acre (1,215 hectares) Fresh Kills Landfill on the western shore of Staten Island will finally shut down on January 1, 2002 after over 50 years of use. Waste from New York will then either be exported or recycled.

Until its closure, the site will continue to serve as a repository for all the residential waste generated in the Bronx, Staten Island and Manhattan and a portion of Brooklyn’s waste.

In recent years, the site has been dogged by environmental problems. In January, DOS agreed to install additional leachate controls to collect 80% of the leachate from certain sections of the site following a lawsuit brought under the Federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

The announcement of the final plans by New York State Governor George Pataki and City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani sets the seal on a process that has been going on since 1996, when the closure of the site was first announced.

“Fresh Kills will close and it will close on time,” Governor Pataki said. “This agreement keeps the promise we made to the people of Staten Island and the people of New York that we would end this environmental nightmare. We have worked closely with the City to improve recycling and move forward with the closing of Fresh Kills.”

Under the plans, the City of New York has agreed to withdraw its permit to operate the landfill and to stop receiving waste at the landfill by the deadline. The plans outline the requirements for closure of the landfill site as well as penalties if the City Government fails to meet its commitments.

The City has just released an update to its Solid Waste Management Plan (SWMP) and an environmental impact statement which sets out the long-term plans for managing the City’s waste after the closure of Fresh Kills.

These include plans to export waste from Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens via an enclosed barge unloading facility (EBUF) and waste from Staten Island via a container-to-rail facility at Fresh Kills. Bronx waste would be exported by truck and rail or barge in the Bronx.

The SWMP also contains plans for an increase in recycling, waste prevention and composting. Weekly recycling collection services are now in place in all the city’s 59 districts. By December 1999, the city’s recycling rate had risen to 21.2% from 18.8% in December 1998.

As for the future of Fresh Kills, the City says it will work with the New York state’s Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) to redevelop the area after closure. $300,000 in grants have been made to the city’s Department of Planning to investigate potential uses for the landfill after closure. These could include restored habitats, open spaces and active and passive recreation.

“The DEC’s commitment to the Staten Island residents will not end with the closure of the landfill,” said State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner John P. Cahill. “The order will remain in effect until all closure construction and post-closure monitoring and maintenance requirements have been achieved by the City.”

New York City says the introduction of weekly recycling collections and short-term interim waste export contracts has enabled it to reduce the amount of waste sent to Fresh Kills and to exceed the goals set in the Fresh Kills Task Force Report released in November of 1996.

“In less than three years, we have already cut in half the amount of waste the City sends to Fresh Kills each day, and we expect to meet or exceed the next Task Force Report waste export target this fall,” said New York City Department of Sanitation Commissioner Kevin Farrell.

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