Raising Brookhaven landfill height debated

Newsday May 9, 2012

The prospect of growing the Brookhaven landfill drew scores of passionate residents and union members to a packed town board meeting, where they argued over Supervisor Mark Lesko's proposal to raise the dump's height by 50 feet to take in more waste and more money for the town.

Lesko has proposed making the landfill 320 feet tall to generate an additional $120 million in net revenue for the town, which relies on the $45 million in yearly income from the landfill in Yaphank. Neighbors complain about dust and debris coming from the facility, and some blame the landfill for health problems.

While the official proposal sponsored by Councilman Timothy Mazzei was only to grant the town permission to ask the state Department of Environmental Conservation about raising the landfill height and to accept 10 percent more waste for the next three years -- and not a vote on raising the height -- the meeting was filled with pleas to consider the quality of life of the landfill's neighbors.

"Shame on you," said resident Georgette Grier-Key to loud applause and cheers. "You try to have a barbecue with the stench of the dump."  Kathleen Scheibel, a member of the Brookhaven Community Coalition, said the board shouldn't consider the landfill "an either or situation."

"It's not either higher taxes or a higher landfill," she said, and urged the board to consider three years of accelerated intake to make more money and fill up the original landfill faster without expansion.

Union members argued a taller landfill would help the town's finances and prevent layoffs. "For that 50 feet, we can save the equivalent of 30 to 40 town jobs," landfill employee Charlie Churchio said to applause from fellow union members.

The proposal passed 6-1, with Councilwoman Connie Kepert dissenting.

Kepert said the landfill's negative effects would hurt more people if the facility were allowed to grow taller. "As the height grows, more and more residents are impacted," she said.  Kepert asked the board to agree to a vote on any further action after the DEC decision.

The board -- with the exception of Mazzei -- voted in favor of Kepert's idea. He voted against it.