Community News
Long Island Compost

By Connie Kepert

Composting is an environmentally beneficial activity when sites are small, and managed correctly.  However, when the processing of compostable materials, such as leaves and brush are centralized, they pose enormous odor and potential health impacts to nearby residents particularly those living downwind of the sites.

I have been the Town Board’s most vocal proponent for increasing both our recycling rates and backyard composting through innovative programs, such as Save Money As You Reduce Trash, and an incentive program for residents to invest in backyard composters, like the one I have.  I even hosted a show on channel 18 to inform residents on how to compost cheaply and simply in their own backyards.   Unfortunately, others have approached the issue differently and suggested that all compostable materials collected by the town should be placed in one community. The community of Yaphank and the adjacent community of Brookhaven Hamlet have borne the burden of the Town’s Landfill for nearly 40 years.  Additionally, the majority of the Town’s leaves and brush are processed by Long Island Compost, a stones from the landfill, again in Yaphank.   To me, this is simply unfair.

The issue of how and where the Town should compost its leaves and brush has prompted a passionate debate between well meaning people who care about the health and well being of their respective communities.  When passions rise, and politics and PR men get involved, facts can sometimes get lost in the shuffle. Therefore, I am going to briefly summarize the facts of the health and fiscal impacts of compost facilities in Brookhaven.

On June 10th, 2010 Suffolk County Health Department released a report which stated that L.I. Compost is by far the worst offender of air quality standards in Suffolk County with odors detected at 77.8% of the samples taken. The Papermill Road site in Manorville was among the best run compost facilities in Suffolk County. This facility exceeded DEC threshold by only 5% with odors detected only 25% of the time.

As I stated at the beginning of this article the problem with composting is its centralization.  Therefore, the decentralization of composting facilities, as well as backyard composting is the direction the town should be heading in.  Not closing smaller, well run facilities and funneling all compost collected to one small area of the town.  Last August I formed a committee to examine the long and short-term goals, issues and financial impacts of composting within the Town of Brookhaven. That committee identified several road blocks to creating and enforcing reasonable regulations on composting operations.

In an effort to overcome these barriers, I have passed several sense resolutions recommending that the DEC adopt site specific air quality standards and amend their regulations so that the processing of mulch is no longer an exempt activity. I also introduced and passed a third sense resolution in support of the DEC enforcing their preferred practices at all compost facilities within the Town of Brookhaven.

I have written to both our State Senator Lee Zelden, and our Assemblyman Dean Murray to transform these sense resolutions into New York State Law and I look forward to working cooperatively with them in the future.

Finally, I am working closely with our Town’s Fire Marshalls to enforce state fire code regulations on the height of compost piles.  The Town’s Fire Marshalls are engaged in regular site visits to L.I. Compost to ensure compliance with pile heights and pile separation distances. The Town of Brookhaven has negotiated an open door agreement with the operator of Long Island Compost to enter the site at any time.

The decentralization of compost facilities, the changing of state regulations, and the enforcement of town codes will result in cleaner air and livable communities throughout Brookhaven Town.