McKeown sisters at Beaver Dam Creek and South Country road

Brookhaven & South Haven Hamlets

Town of Brookhaven, Suffolk County, New York

Brookhaven/South Haven Hamlets Study

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Chapter VI: Issues Regarding "Greater Brookhaven" Impact Areas

1. The Brookhaven Town Landfill and Waste Management Issues

Boaters on the Great South Bay, observers from Fire Island dunes, drivers on the Sunrise Highway – all have come to recognize the Brookhaven Town Landfill as a major new feature of the Long Island landscape – often dominating the horizon and certainly dominating the list of local environmental concerns within our study area.

More than a decade ago, it was recognized that leachate from the landfill has been advancing in a plume through the groundwater south toward the Bay, contaminating wells and threatening the waters of the Beaver Dam Creek and, ultimately, the Bay itself. As a direct result of this contamination of the groundwater, Brookhaven Town began the subsidized installation of public water along residential streets in the affected area. This installation has been completed in Brookhaven Hamlet; it has not yet been undertaken in South Haven which is equally affected.

Odors from the landfill have been a major problem in our study area, at one point prompting then Governor Cuomo to dispatch Richard Kessel to investigate the matter and expedite the Town’s e6orts to mitigate the problem. More important, serious concerns about elevated rates of respiratory ailments at the nearby Frank P. Long School and the Horizon Village residential development have raised the issue of a direct impact on the health of local citizens due to emissions from the landfill.

For the past two years, the Town has been moving ahead with plans to expand the landfill, nearly doubling its present size, through the construction of Cell 5. This new cell will serve primarily as a repository of incinerator ash, to meet the requirements of the Intermunicipal Agreement between Brookhaven and Hempstead Towns (the "ash-for-trash" dea1). Citizens of Brookhaven and South Haven Hamlets have actively opposed this deal, primarily for two reasons: 1.) The expansion of the landfill and its continued use to stockpile ash, with its known high content of toxic components, further threatens the health and environment of our community; and, 2.) this use of the landfill, as a highly effective revenue engine fueled by garbage, skews the economics of waste management in Brookhaven Town in such a way as to discourage efforts at recycling and reducing the overall waste stream.

We believe that the solid waste management plan (SWMP) adopted by the Town (and accepted by the State DEC) is deficient, and that communities such as ours can play a valuable role in helping to improve it. As an example, in 1992, the BVA Board proposed that the Hamlet become the site of a pilot program for a pay-by-weight, or "pay as you throw" approach to garbage collection, whereby residents would pay a specified amount for each pickup of non-recyclable waste, based on weight or container size. Pickup of recyclables would be free. In other communities, this scheme had proven successful in reducing the amount of residential garbage in the waste stream, while producing significant savings in garbage fees for participating households. A questionnaire distributed in the community by the BVA in 1993 got a significant (over 70 responses mailed back) and overwhelmingly positive response. We met with Supervisor LaMura, then-Commissioner of Waste Management James Heil, and Councilman Felix Grucci to discuss the possibility of implementing such a pilot program. To our great disappointment, the Town was not willing to follow through. Worse, under the current contract with its carters, the Town has actually reduced the rate of recycling pickups.