Brookhaven eyes Yaphank landfill expansion

Originally published: February 20, 2012 8:49 PM
Updated: February 20, 2012 9:39 PM
By SOPHIA CHANG  sophia.chang@newsday.com

 

Closing the Yaphank landfill could financially cripple Brookhaven Town, Supervisor Mark Lesko acknowledged at a meeting with community leaders and environmentalists. He broached the possibility that the landfill, which brings in about $45 million in revenue each year, might even be expanded, given the dire condition of the town's finances. "Should we consider, or not, an expansion of the landfill?" he asked at last week's meeting with the town landfill liaison committee, which includes representatives from 16 community organizations. "That would result in extending the life of the landfill, but it would also ensure financial stability for this township for as long as this landfill is operational."  Last year, Lesko said at a community meeting that the landfill, which is projected to reach capacity in 17 years, would be closed "eventually."

But declining revenue from real estate taxes and the loss of some landfill contracts has meant that for the past few years, the town has relied on its surplus to cover an annual deficit of about $6 million to $16 million, and balance the $260 million budget. The surplus will run out soon, Lesko warned, and the town will be on the brink of bankruptcy. "Where do I turn?" he asked. To avoid layoffs of hundreds of town employees, which he described as "your neighbors and your friends," Lesko said the other option was to generate more revenue from landfill. "We have to start talking about looking at the landfill as the way to provide short-term relief," he said.

He suggested asking the state Department of Environmental Conservation for permission to increase the amount of landfill material accepted.

The town is now allowed to accept one million tons of refuse a year, and he estimated each additional 100,000 tons of material would generate $200,000 more in fees. "Would that shorten the life of the landfill?" asked environmentalist Adrienne Esposito. If accepting more material now would mean closing the landfill earlier, the proposal would be "appealing to most people," she said. "We'd like to see it close sooner."

A second option, to expand the landfill's size, would also mean extending its life, Lesko said. He cited feeling frustration over being caught between the unpopular landfill -- blamed for years of odor and dust in surrounding neighborhoods -- and the loss of revenue. "No one wants to talk about it," Lesko said. "It would be the easiest thing for me to just say, 'I don't want to talk about it,' and you deal with it 10 years from now."