Brookhaven officials have begun planning for the eventual shutdown of the town's landfill -- the largest and one of the last municipal dumps on Long Island.
Town officials have said they believe the 192-acre landfill at 350 Horseblock Rd. in Brookhaven hamlet may close as soon as 10 years from now, when it is expected to reach its capacity. Previous estimates suggested the facility would remain open for at least 12 years.
Closing the sprawling landfill, which can be seen from Brookhaven Town Hall, located at 1 Independence Hill in Farmingville, more than 7 miles away, could cause a steep tax hike, Supervisor Edward P. Romaine said. Landfill fees generate more than $52 million in annual revenue, $30 million of which helps fund the town animal shelter and parks department.
The Brookhaven Town Board has created a reserve fund that will help compensate for the expected revenue loss. The fund of $5 million to $8 million will pay $1.5 million to $2 million in annual maintenance costs to prevent methane gas leaks and leaching of contaminated liquids after the closure.
"The biggest hit is, obviously, to our bottom line," Romaine said in an interview last week. "If $30 million is taken out, our general [fund] . . . tax is going to at least double."
Brookhaven officials revised their estimate of when the landfill will close because the amount of construction and demolition debris taken there by private carters has doubled since 2008. The 40-year-old landfill, originally operated by New York State and later transferred to Brookhaven, also accepts ash from incinerators such as the private Covanta Hempstead Co. plant in Westbury.
It is unclear how that waste will be disposed when the landfill is closed. Babylon Town, which closed its main landfill in 1990, has not announced plans to close another landfill that takes ash, town spokesman Kevin Bonner said.
Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment in Farmingdale, said local officials must start preparing for the Brookhaven landfill's closure.
"We are heading toward a solid waste management crisis," said Esposito, a frequent critic of the town's management of the landfill. "We will need an option for ash disposal, and construction and demolition [debris] disposal."
The landfill's closure cannot come soon enough for many of its neighbors, including teachers at nearby Frank P. Long Intermediate School, who blame the landfill for sickening odors.
"Several years ago we were evacuated from the school," fourth-grade teacher Trish Gallina said. "Sometimes it lasts for a couple of minutes, and there have been times where it lasts for a day," she said of the odors.
Town officials have blamed the smell on other sources, such as cesspools, but Romaine said he has agreed to a $100,000 air quality study near the landfill.
"We want to make sure the landfill is a good neighbor," Romaine said. "It's not going to be operating forever."
Cash for trash
Brookhaven landfill facts
Location: 350 Horseblock Rd., Brookhaven
Opened: 1975, by New York State; later transferred to Brookhaven Town
Size: 192 acres
Highest point: 270 feet above sea level
What it takes: construction and demolition debris, ash from incinerators, some street sweepings
Annual revenue: More than $52 million
Annual profit: About $30 million