The inevitable happened
Long Island Advance July 15, 2010

Have you seen footage of the enormous mountains of mulch fully ablaze at the Long Island Compost facility in Yaphank on July 11 and 12? At first glance it looked like video of a Hawaiian volcano. Sadly, but not surprisingly they were burning mulch piles that required more than two dozen fire departments to extinguish. The brave volunteers struggled to find hydrants to combat the blaze and were forced to close local roads to run water hoses and employ the use of water trucks. They say it may take days for the internal smoldering to cease.

For a number of years residents have been voicing their concerns to officials of the town of Brookhaven, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Suffolk County Department of Health Services without much recognition, support or enforcement of obvious violation.

I believe the piles are mandated to a maximum height of 20 feet but are regularly over 60 feet or higher, in my estimation.  High piles limit air current and produce anaerobic decomposition, which is the cause of objectionable odors (the main complaint of residents). Particulate generation from grinding and processing mulch (the second largest complaint of residents) can be greatly controlled through the use of a sprinkler system.

Had there been a sprinkler system in place, there would not likely have been piles of mulch spontaneously combusting.  A sprinkler system would also cool the hot piles of mulch. Standing water reclamation and precise length of time and pile turning management of the decomposition process are other crucial aspects of non-nuisance composting.

The Long Island Compost facility in Yaphank should be closed until it can be made to respect the letter of the law, modernized and proven to operate in a safe, non-invasive manner before operations can resume.

Christopher Broszeit