DEC Cites Brookhaven Rail Terminal For Illegal Dumping at Yaphank Site

DEC charges illegal dumping. Construction debris found in excavated area,
Terminal attracting, not reducing truck traffic

 By David Winzelberg
Long Island Business News

Opened last fall, the Brookhaven Rail Terminal was designed to reduce local truck traffic by bringing big loads in by rail. Instead, the terminal has become a busy hub for 40-ton dump trucks and other vehicles removing sand from the site and bringing in contraband demolition debris, according to state officials. Inspectors from the state's Department of Environmental Conservation who visited the rail terminal last week in response to a complaint, found a 300-cubic-yard pile of construction waste and an excavated area where sand had been mined and then illegally backfilled with debris, according to DEC spokeswoman Aphrodite Montalvo.  The DEC said it plans to issue a notice of violation and start an enforcement action for dumping without a solid waste permit or registration. The waste dumping carries a maximum fine of $7,500 per violation and $1,500 per day if it continues, she said. Judy White, a spokeswoman for the terminal operators a consortium of construction and road-building companies said she had no comment because the firm had not received notice from the DEC.

Opened in September, the $40 million truck/rail depot located in Yaphank just south of Exit 66 of the Long Island Expressway is designed to bring in train cars full of crushed stone for use in road building and other construction. Terminal operators claim the facility will handle about 1 million tons of freight per year by 2016 and take at least 40,000 trucks off the LIE in its first year in business.

It's unclear how long the illegal dumping has been going on, but Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said Long Island has a long history of illegal dumping, including toxic material. "The problem is, because it's dumped right into sand, it ends up contaminating our drinking water even quicker," she said.

It's not the first time the Yaphank site has attracted government scrutiny. In October 2007, the Town of Brookhaven halted construction of the rail terminal, claiming contractors illegally removed hundreds of trees and excavated sand on the site without permits. However, the site's owners argued the project fell under the auspices of the Federal Railroad Administration and therefore was exempt from local restrictions. The conflict was settled after a two-year legal tug-of-war, with the town receiving about $1 million in restitution. The terminal operators includes New Jersey-based Landbridge Intermodal, the stone quarry firm D.A. Collins from upstate Wilton, Ohio-based US Rail and Bay Shore's Pratt Bros. Construction and Watral Bros. excavation services. The town said it had also inspected the site but found no violations of town code.

Whatever the outcome of the DEC investigation, sand mining will continue at the site because it has been deemed incidental to construction of a railroad spur. Excavating and selling sand is an accepted practice among the Island's developers, who use the earnings to offset construction costs. Sand used to make asphalt and concrete wholesales here for between $8 and $10 a cubic yard. For perspective, a 5-acre parcel dug 20 feet deep will yield about 150,000 cubic yards of sand or about $1.5 million wholesale. ''Unfortunately, it's sometimes cheaper to pay the fine than operate within the boundaries of the law," Esposito said. ''The end result is, it contaminates our drinking water."

David Winzelberg can be reached at david.winzelberg@libn.com