Waste management to apply for landfill increase
50-foot raise will benefit town’s bankroll
By PEGGY SPELLMAN HOEY
Long Island Advance

 

Brookhaven lawmakers on Tuesday accepted an environmental study of the landfill, allowing its division of waste management to make an application to the state to raise it by 50 feet as a revenue generator for the town. Lawmakers said raising the landfill’s cell 6 from 270-feet to 320-feet above mean sea level will extend the life of the landfill by another three years and bring in an additional $120 million to the much-strapped town’s coffers. Making an application to the state Department of Environmental Conservation starts the process, but ultimately, the project will have to go through a series of approvals, which will include public hearings. Lawmakers said raising landfill is necessary to make up for revenue lost from declining mortgage tax receipts which make up the better part of the town’s finances.

“This is a giant step,” said Supervisor Mark Lesko. He said the DEC will next characterize the application as either a modification of the town’s existent permit, meaning they could issue a decision much quicker; the DEC could also say that the town needs a new permit, which could take much longer, possibly years.

The measure passed 6-1 with Councilwoman Connie Kepert in opposition.

In addition to allowing the department of waste management to submit their environmental findings, lawmakers also approved an amendment proposed by Kepert that requires the town to investigate increasing the landfill by varying heights, as opposed to just signing on to the 50 feet. About a dozen residents who live near the landfill chastised lawmakers for considering the option of raising the landfill when so many people are against it.

Gas mask in hand, landfill opponent Georgette Grier-Key of North Bellport accused the town board of dumping on the community surrounding the landfill and chided the town board for not representing the South Shore fairly. “I want to say shame on you,” she said. “It is a disgrace that the poor people and minorities have to take everything and we have to pay the same taxes. We have the derelicts. We have the Section 8 housing. We have the sex offenders. Enough is enough.” “I invite the entire town board to come to my house on the Fourth of July and try to have a barbecue with the stench.”

Citizens Campaign for the Environment Executive Director Adrienne Esposito, a resident of Patchogue who is also a part of the Brookhaven Community Coalition, a group that supported other alternatives to raising the landfill, questioned whether the town took a hard enough look at all the environmental factors involved. “You need to do something holistic for the town to bring us into the millennium together,” she said, adding, “so that people can go out in their backyard on the Fourth of July and on Memorial Day and have a barbecue and not worry that their kids are getting asthma because of the damn landfill. We don’t want Brookhaven to be ‘trash-haven.’”

MaryAnn Johnston of Manor Park accused the lawmakers of not doing their jobs to protect the environment. “The fact that this town, as a collective, has become addicted to trash is not a reason for you to come forward and ask us to send you on a bender, so we are not going to take that,” she said. “You will not raise the height of the landfill. You will not increase its footprint. You will find a way to balance your books without making us sick.”

Martin Van Lith took issue with the town raising the landfill because the Fourth Council District, where it is located, already bears too much of a burden. “Instead of Brookhaven being the biggest steward of our environment, it’s become its biggest polluter,” he said.

Brookhaven Village Association President Kathleen Scheibel, a member of the landfill liaison committee, said she understands the need for the town to increase its revenue, but did not think it should be done by using the landfill to generate funds. “Its not either/or,” she said. “It’s time to think about a plan to close the landfill. It’s going to close eventually. The time to think about it is now. The time to do it is now.”

Bellport resident Elizabeth Gundlach also sided against raising the landfill due to the amount of ash that’s stored there. “Whenever the surface gets moved around, that toxic element is going to be there and will be spread throughout the community,” she said. “So, that is not a solution to the problem. The solution is finding how we can divert the waste and use it as a resource instead of thinking of garbage as waste. If we start changing our mindset and start thinking about it as a resource, we can find the solutions.”

But not everyone was against raising the landfill.

Charlie Chercio, an employee of the landfill, supported increasing it. “This is not a request to expand the footprint of the landfill into the areas that are not already approved,” he said. “It is a request to increase the height by 50 feet. For that 50 feet we can save the equivalent of 30 to 40 jobs.” ■