PATH TO A BETTER WORLD — Madison County Chairman John M. Becker, left, joins Miss Earth USA 2016 Corrin Stellakis and DEC Region 7 Director Matthew Marko by the county’s styrofoam densifier. Stellakis holds a block of recycled styrofoam. The DEC designated Madison County as one of 10 Climate Smart Communities for its environmental policies. (Sentinel photo by Roger Seibert)

DEC presents Madison County with Climate Smart Community award

Published Feb 20, 2017 at 4:00pm

CANASTOTA — The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation recognized Madison County as a Climate Smart Community in a ceremony on Thursday held at the county landfill.

The designation recognizes the county’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions and protect the community from the effects of climate change.

Madison County has developed an energy and sustainability plan which includes strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Greenhouse gas absorbs and emits radiation in the atmosphere. Some experts believe it has increased the Earth’s temperature and caused extreme weather events, like the heavy rainfall that led to flooding in Oneida in 2013.

It has also installed a series of building upgrades. conducting comprehensive energy audits and upgrading to light-emitting diode (LED) technology in government buildings. The county installed a 50-kilowatt solar photovoltaic (PV) array and is one of the first communities in the nation to install a flexible solar PV cap on its local landfill.

The county harvests methane gas from its active landfill and uses it to fuel an electrical generator. Cazenovia-based Johnson Brothers Lumber then uses the waste heat from this gas-to-energy facility to dry lumber in a kiln on the property. The gas-to-energy facility also provides heat to other county buildings that are part of the landfill complex.

“Madison County has set the bar for the rest of the state,” DEC Executive Deputy Commissioner Ken Lynch said.

The DEC will give the county a pair of street signs announcing the designation. They will be placed at its Agriculture and Renewable Energy Park in the Town of Lincoln. The county will also receive a $15,000 state grant from the DEC to reduce emissions from its vehicle fleet.

It will join Orange and Ulster counties and seven towns and villages statewide as climate smart communities.

“This is a testament to the efforts of Madison County’s staff and its residents,” county planning director Scott Ingmire said.

Corrin Stellakis is among those residents. She is a model and personal trainer who represented the United States at the 2016 Miss Earth Pageant in the Philippines, and has made environmental responsibility her platform.

Stellakis explained the use of the county’s recently-installed styrofoam densifier. It crushes styrofoam and compresses it; styrofoam is 90 percent air. It is then made into blocks which are recycled and used in different products. The county has been using the densifier since late December.

“This equipment is important because styrofoam can take up to 30 percent of the space in a landfill,” she said.

The county is accepting No. 6 styrofoam for recycling, and may begin accepting polypropylene styrofoam. The densifier is one of several recycling efforts the county has undertaken.

“I am proud of what Madison County is doing,” Stellakis said.

During the Miss Earth pageant Stellakis spoke to the need to conserve water. She promoted practical changes including not leaving the tap running while brushing teeth and doing dishes, and taking shorter showers. She encourages people to reuse water when possible.

“Only two percent of the planet’s water is usable,” she said. “My goal is to educate on water’s use, and I can’t say what means governments may use to increase what’s available. We need to remember that it is a limited resource.”