By Karen Osburn, Archivist
You hear a lot nowadays about landfills, recycling, garbage and waste. There are advertisements on the radio for recycling, letters to the editors about landfills, and exhibits, displays, and housing projects built around recycling. Many people don’t care for the idea of garbage, their own or others, near their home. There are concerns about smells, ground water contaminants, air pollution, and excessive traffic caused by garbage trucks. There is no doubt that our disposable society generates a tremendous amount of waste and people seldom agree on how to dispose of garbage.
In the more recent past, 50 or more years ago, we practiced a lot of recycling without even thinking about it. The milk man delivered milk, eggs, butter and cream. The milk and cream came in refillable glass bottles. What soda pop there was came in returnable bottles that you paid deposit on. If something broke it was repaired. Items purchased at the store did not come with so many layers of tamper proof packaging. When clothes wore out they had a new “life” as cleaning rags. If you outgrew your clothes or toys there were siblings, cousins or neighbors to inherit your hand-me-downs. I even knew a man who once went so far as mend a three dollar toilet brush. The generation that survived the Great Depression often went to great extremes to recycle or reuse various objects. So historically, how did we as individuals and
city deal with waste, recycling and landfills? Geneva
If you go back hundreds of years, people had “middens” or garbage piles outside individual dwellings. Some may have been by the back door of a dwelling or someplace at the back of the garden at least that is where archaeologists often find remains of items people discarded. Remember, folks were not throwing out as much as we do now. Animal bones, broken crockery and odd bits were usually discarded there. People burned what was burnable and used what was useable and if you were wealthy enough to just throw away whatever struck your fancy, there was almost always someone needy enough to “recycle” items from your rubbish pile.
Even privies or outhouses ended up being the recipient of broken household goods. You might be thinking “Eew! Gross!”, but archaeologists find the sites of middens, privies or anywhere people discarded bits and pieces of civilization helpful in recreating the way people lived, worked and played.
Reading the Village of Geneva trustee meeting minutes of the early 1800s is interesting because it shows the Village trustees beginning to officially comment on where and what people could “dump”. As sometimes happens, different individuals have different notions of how fastidious their surroundings needed to be kept. Eventually public health dictated that people cease throwing garbage in their back yards and required a public dumping place on the outskirts of the residential area.
The City of
had a “dump” as did most
municipalities. In checking the Geneva
Bureau of Public Works Reports for the year 1930 I found care of the dump
listed under the Highway Department and found they had expended $1,388.19 on
“Care of Dump”. Compared to what gets spent on landfills and trash pick-up
today that is probably very inexpensive, but I suspect that in 1930 part of “Care
of Dump” entailed hiring a care-taker to make sure that “bears”, stray dogs or
kids didn’t overrun the place after closing. Today many municipalities have
their landfills operated by outside contractors or the dump is owned and
operated by companies like Casella in Geneva Ontario
County or Seneca Meadows in . Garbage is now big business (it appears the
Ontario County Landfill had a budget of around $600,000 as of 2012). Seneca County
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So where were the dumps in
? I had to do quite a bit of looking to find
out. Even after hours of reading Bureau
of Public Works Reports and newspapers the best I can do is point to a general
area in which the dump may have been.
For example, there is a mention in the 1898 BPW Report that Geneva purchased a stone
crushing machine and placed it near the Geneva Washington Street dump. Then in the September 7, 1957 issue of the Geneva Daily Times there is an article
about the dump being overrun by rats, but it doesn’t even mention the
location. It didn’t need to, everyone in
town knew. The Geneva Daily Times states that the Board of Public Works quit
burning the rubbish and the rat infestation increased. Apparently rats dislike charred food, but the
neighbors downwind from the dump disliked the smell of burning garbage and
burning ceased. I am not certain the
neighbors won much in this case.
A earlier article from the January 11, 1957 Geneva Times states the location of the landfill was at the north end of Seneca Lake and east of Pre-Emption Street. There was much discussion about where the City Common Council could find the amount of land necessary for a sanitary landfill. The figures cited in the paper were 1 acre of land for every 10,000 people each year. The population of
at that time would require 2 acres of
land per year so for a 20 year period 40 acres of vacant, unproductive land
would be required, an amount that would be very difficult to acquire in densely
populated city. The discussion may have
been more prolonged if the need to close the dump so the arterial could be
built hadn’t arisen. But, then the
question of where to put the new dump arose. Geneva
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By April 1959 both the City of
Geneva and the Town of had new locations for their
dumps. The city contracted with Dominick
Tantalo and Edward Kenny, two contractors from Waterloo to operate a dump about
a mile north of the Ecko Plant, a division of Geneva Forge, in the town of Geneva. Meanwhile, after a disagreement arose between
the city and the town of use of the existing landfill, the town hired Sam Maio to
run a land fill for them consisting of a dump, which was located on Geneva Gambee Rd near the
railroad tracks and between Genesee
St. and Lyons
Maio with received about $100 a month for care of this landfill.
By 1978 the
was operational and more municipalities in the county were arranging to use
that landfill since the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation
passed new and stricter regulations for running landfills that were also more
expensive for small towns and villages to meet.
Some towns developed “transfer stations” where you brought your garbage
to the town station and paid a fee to leave it there. Some cities contracted for garbage pick-up. There doesn’t seem to be a solution to refuse
handling that everyone agrees on. Garbage
remains a difficult subject in more ways than one. County of Ontario Landfill
Note: This whole article came about because someone asked me where the old dump was; unfortunately I still can’t say precisely where it was placed.
|Washington Street Dump|