Spagnoletti part of ‘cuttings’ forum

Mary Perham
Marvin Resnikoff

A public forum on Steuben County’s plan to accept Marcellus Shale cuttings at the county landfill is set for 7 p.m. today at the Bath Volunteer Fire Department Hall.

The forum will feature presentations by county Public Works Commissioner Vince Spagnoletti and physicist Marvin Resnikoff, a senior associate at Radioactive Management Associates. A question and answer period will follow the presentations.

“There are well-intentioned arguments on both sides,” said forum moderator Mark Schlechter. “Let’s voice the arguments and let the people decide on the merits.”

County officials now are looking at ways to safely bring in cuttings – or rock and dirt – left from natural gas drilling under way in Pennsylvania. Once the safety procedures are reviewed and accepted by the county Legislature’s Public Works Committee, the landfill will take in the debris. No date has been set for the final review.

Cuttings are rocks and debris removed to install “hydrofracking” drills into the Marcellus shale. Water and debris left by breaking up the shale must be treated at special leachate facilities and will not be accepted by Steuben.

However, a number of concerned citizens believe the cuttings pose a threat to people and the environment. They point to Resnikoff’s study, which showed the debris contained radioactive elements that decay into dangerous radon gas.

His report was confirmed by other scientists and presented to Chemung County, where the county-owned landfill is operated by the private firm Casella Waste Systems.

Casella countered with a CoPhysics Corp. report on the Chemung cuttings, which said the debris is not dangerous.

Steuben officials say Resnikoff’s study is flawed. They base their decision to accept the debris on the CoPhysics report and a state Department of Environmental Conservation letter saying the cuttings may be safely buried at the landfill.

Schlechter said Monday’s meeting will look at a small part of the larger drilling issue.

“When you’re looking at it in a bigger context, (Marcellus Shale drilling) encompasses so many facets, so many different parts,” he said. “There’s lot of debate, pro-drillers, anti-drillers, but it ignores a larger portion of the population -- those that aren’t sure yet. We owe it to them to tell them about it and let them decide.”

 The public forum event is sponsored by the Steuben County League of Women Voters, the Committee to Preserve the Finger Lakes, filmmakers Jeff and Jodi Andrysick, the Coalition to Protect New York, and the Bath Peace and Justice Group.

Vince Spagnoletti