Deal in place to remove backlog of garbage on East End

Progressive garbage facility in Holtsville, where garbage can

Progressive garbage facility in Holtsville, where garbage can be seen baled and stockpiled beneath the blue tarp on Tuesday, July 1, 2014. (Credit: Newsday / Sarah Crichton)

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A backlog of garbage on the East End will start moving off Long Island in the next 10 days, pending a green light from the state and provided there's no strike by Long Island Rail Road workers.

The deal to remove the more than 10,000 tons of garbage that has accumulated at facilities on the East End in recent weeks was hammered out among key private industry players, with help from the governor's office, state Department of Environmental Conservation and the Town of Islip, sources said.

Officials declined Friday to comment publicly, pending final state approval and a necessary emergency authorization from the state Department of Environmental Conservation. But sources said the solution would see garbage generated in Southampton, East Hampton and Southold hauled on trucks to a large Brentwood distribution site and then taken by rail to its final destination in Kentucky.

The state DEC, which regulates garbage, must provide a special dispensation for the 30- to 60-day operation. Once the sealed garbage is loaded on rail cars, it becomes the preserve of federal rail regulators as part of regulations that govern interstate commerce.

Several representatives from the companies involved confirmed the agreement, pending state approval.

On Thursday evening, the Town of Islip's planning board unanimously approved a special permit for Elm Global Logistics, the distribution facility at 50 Emjay Blvd., Brentwood, to enable vehicle repair and additional parking.

The facility, in an industrial zone with close access to the Long Island Expressway, backs on to the eastern buffer of the Sagtikos State Parkway just south of the LIE and has an existing rail spur.

Under the deal, the garbage will enter the facility already encased in plastic bales and be loaded on tub-shaped railcars called "gondolas" that will have lids placed on them as a double protection against any trash escaping en route, sources said. Residents who abut the rail line in Queens have been vocal in their opposition to rail freight operations in the past.

From there, the sealed trash goes to the Fresh Ponds rail operation in Queens, where the rail cars are put on trains operated by national carrier CSX, under contract to the New Jersey-based rail garbage hauler ESI, they said.

A shortage of long-haul flatbed trucks coming to Long Island has caused garbage to stockpile in recent weeks at transfer and baling facilities run by Progressive Waste Solutions, the Canadian-based public company that handles garbage for the towns of East Hampton and Southold. A key factor fueling that shortage has been the uptick in building supplies arriving on Long Island in the past year via rail at the Brookhaven Rail Terminal.

As Progressive's facilities in Holtsville and Yaphank approached capacity, the company, which also handles garbage for carters that haul trash from residents and commercial premises, has been forced to turn away third-party carting clients, carting sources said.

A Southampton Town official, Christine Fetton, said the town had called the governor's office to register its support for the deal. "At this point we believe a resolution will be available before the issue impacts our residents," Fetton said Friday.

At one point in the talks led by Karen Rae -- a former Federal Railroad Administration deputy administrator now in Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's office -- an industry representative suggested a barge might provide a quick and effective fix for clearing the backlog, a source said. Officials, however, quickly vetoed the idea that might easily have reawakened memories of the barge fiasco of 1987 in which garbage was temporarily loaded on a vessel that did not have authorization to land anywhere.

Progressive, Eastern Resource, another East End waste handler, Omni Recycling of Babylon, which hauls for Progressive and also bales waste, and New York & Atlantic Railway, which holds the Long Island freight franchise, all declined to comment.

Because New York & Atlantic does not maintain and operate the tracks, a strike by LIRR workers could impact the freight on and off the Island. LIRR workers normally operate the switches and perform other track maintenance functions.

With Sophia Chang

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