Hopefully no same time next year 
Long Island Advance September 29, 2011


The inevitable happened, again. 

Compost fire number two occurred in Yaphank this past Thursday September 22. Luckily the Beaver Industries blaze was not quite as large as the Long Island Compost fire of July 2010. Nonetheless, any blaze that requires a hundred firefighters from a multitude of various districts is serious business. One would think that measures have been implemented to regulate composting facilities in the wake of the first blaze that wreaked so much havoc and received so much attention.

Sadly, the Department of Environmental Conservation has not been able to gain regulating authority of these rogue operations. Similarly, the Town of Brookhaven is very limited in asserting authority other than the occasional summons. It has recently been discovered that the firefighters that responded to the 2010 blaze were subjected to some pretty nasty byproducts released from the burning mulch piles. There have recently been requests to provide respiratory testing for these individuals. Suggestions to include a provision for local residents have also been introduced. Considering that there was black soot that covered much of South Yaphank resulting from the impressive Long Island Compost blaze, testing sounds like a good idea.

There needs to be a definitive regulatory body with specified powers that can police these mulching operations. In both cases, the pile heights were well in excess of the 25-foot maximum. Reports from Beaver Industries were 40-foot pile heights; reports from Long Island Compost were 50 feet. Both sites have a long history of complaints from residents as well as town and county representatives. Complaints have not hindered operations or improved conditions for the surrounding residents. Major fines and shutdowns are necessary in order for these operations to become compliant. Serious consideration must be given to requiring such operations to be mandatorily enclosed as is done in other states and even upstate New York. Temperature, humidity, air quality, noise generation and particulate distribution are all controlled in an enclosed facility. Obviously, optimum pile heights would be maintained. 

The newly formed Brookhaven Community Coalition has been working diligently to identify, address and propose solutions to concerns relating to the area composting facilities and the Brookhaven Town Landfill. Ironically, there was a BCC meeting at the Brookhaven Fire Department on the eve of the Beaver Industries Blaze. Brookhaven Supervisor Mark Lesko had informed the audience that he had sent a letter to Joe Martens the DEC commissioner to review the variance in place at Long Island Compost that allows operation without enclosure. Similarly, Lesko has sent an inquiry to Regional DEC Director Peter Scully for a top-to-bottom review of the entire operation. Many thanks of support to the firefighters, BCC, Supervisor Lesko, concerned citizens and organizations that are addressing this important issue. 

Christopher Broszeit