Round one victory on the landfill, but fight continues
Town backs off on height raise; BCC cites noxious smells 

THE LONG ISLAND ADVANCE - DEC. 6, 2012  

BY LINDA LEUZZI 

In a Nov. 30 stipulation of their New York State Supreme Court Article 78 lawsuit against Brookhaven Town, the Brookhaven Community Coalition won a victory against the proposed 50-foot height raise of Cell 6 at the town’s landfill. Brookhaven Town agreed not to apply to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation for a height raise; the town will also provide a written notice to the BCC if any future applications for an elevation permit are made. In the stipulation pact, ordered by Hon. Peter H. Mayer, the BCC also agreed to withdraw its Article 78, filed Aug. 13, 2012. While round one was won, the mobilization of three curtain burners to handle superstorm Sandy’s debris and the resulting smell is yet another challenge area, the BCC says. “Oh my God,” said Kathleen Scheibel, a Brookhaven hamlet resident as well as the director of the Brookhaven Free Library. “I have smelled it from my home and the library. You smell it from Horseblock Road. You can smell it from Southaven Park; I walk my dog there. It doesn’t smell like wood smoke. This is an oily, nasty smell.” Scheibel said the smells intensified right after the storm.

But problems started even before that, BCC executive board members say. Before the town requested a temporary height increase of 25 feet to accept storm material, the landfill appeared to be rising on its own, without a permit. The height was due to be measured in October. “We’ve been asking [the town] for the measurement,” said Brookhaven Fire Department firefighter Rob Deschler. “We’ve asked since September. We called, emailed and sent them letters and they haven’t responded.” Deschler lives about 1.25 miles away. “The smells and the burning have intensified,” he said. “We [the BCC] politely asked for their permit to be suspended to the DEC; this was a month before the storm,” said Marty Van Lith, a BCC executive board member along with Scheibel and Deschler. “We pointed out a bunch of permit violations. We wouldn’t be here if the town was running it in the proper way.” If remaining cells had been prepared, he said, the height raise wouldn’t be necessary. 

In a June interview with the Advance, Matt Miner, Brookhaven’s commissioner of waste management, said what remained of the landfill for collection lies mostly in Cell 6. “What has already been constructed to date is 46 acres and there’s another 70 acres to go,” he said. “It really depends on how many cubic yards [are used] to fill a hole. Cell 5 has pretty much been built out.” Cell 6 consisted of 12 phases, from seven acres to 13.7 acres, he said. Van Lith also pointed out that Brookhaven Rail Terminal offered to help ship solid waste off Long Island. “We think it’s a great idea,” Van Lith said. “We didn’t mind if they got a permit for 60 days; they got one from the state [DEC] for 30. We asked, ‘why is it limited to 30 days?’ ” Councilwoman Connie Kepert, whose district encompasses Bellport, Brookhaven and Yaphank, said her office received one call a week-and-a-half ago regarding soot on cars, but nothing else. “I did meet with Matt [Miner],” Kepert said. “I asked him what we were burning and he said only wood waste and vegetative debris. He has the DEC, Suffolk County [Department of Health] and FEMA there and they all have representatives on-site to monitor the operation.” Kepert said she was scheduled to go on a landfill tour and look at the burn curtains. 

The South Country School District was asked if there were complaints from the Frank P. Long Intermediate School, which borders the landfill and was evacuated last year when bio solid fumes from the landfill made students and teachers ill. “We’ve had not a single inquiry from students, staff or parents coming off the landfill this year,” said South Country Interim Superintendent Dr. Howard Koenig. Deschler said the board was told the landfill would be measured in October; they hadn’t received the measurements yet. “I’m told by Matt Miner the field work was completed in October and we’ll have the most recent topographical map this week,” said Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine. “Only vegetative debris is being burned. I raised these concerns earlier this week when I saw the smoke in the area. The DEC, FEMA and Suffolk County Department of Health are all monitoring the burning. It’s massive. It’s all wood.” There are three air curtain destructors at the site, with a fourth that’s coming once it’s approved by the state DEC, Romaine said. “They’re burning approximately 3,500 cubic yards per day. The number of trucks [coming in with material] is constantly fluctuating as FEMA resources are made available,” he added. “The DEC has given authorization through Feb. 12, 2013. I raised this same question. There’s an enormous amount of volume with these trees taken down and these solutions were made by the town before I was supervisor but they were signed off by the DEC, the county.” Romaine said the burn units are being paid by the county and the DEC. 

Romaine said the burning is a concern of his as well. “The town has chosen this method because there’s no other way, with this enormous volume, to dispose of the debris,” he said. “If [Citizens Campaign for the Environment Executive Director Adrienne Esposito’s] group