Workers began moving a backlog of trash out of several Suffolk waste transfer sites Tuesday by trucking bales of garbage to a Brentwood facility and loading them onto train cars that will take the refuse to a landfill more than 900 miles away.
The first wave of trash, loaded onto some of the 19 railcars delivered to Elms Global Logistics' facility in Brentwood, is expected to leave Long Island Wednesday night and travel through several states before reaching its destination -- a landfill in Kentucky, according to people involved in transporting the waste.
The first set of railcars were supposed to have been delivered a week ago, but CSX, a national freight operator hired to haul the garbage, mistakenly sent them to New Jersey, officials have said.
The error created further delay in removing the trash, which had been building up for months. The garbage pileup, caused by a shortage of trucks on the Island and other factors, overwhelmed some waste management companies, which notified customers that their waste can no longer be accepted until the backlog clears.
Michael White, an attorney for Omni Recycling of Babylon, who helped broker a deal with the state Department of Environmental Conservation to use railcars to get the garbage off the Island, said state officials should allow waste management to use rails in the future for garbage removal.
"Rail transportation needs to be part of a long-term solution," White said Tuesday.
Typically, trucks that deliver supplies and goods to Long Island are also used to take municipal garbage off the Island. But the increased use of rail freight and other factors have led to a shortage of trucks, leaving some waste management companies unable to keep up with the volume of garbage coming in.
To alleviate the backlog, the DEC issued an emergency authorization on July 18, enabling solid waste management companies to haul garbage off Long Island by railroad. The temporary authorization, which limits the disposal at 550 tons daily, is good for 30 days. That limit works out to be about eight railroad carloads of garbage, White said.
Three waste management companies -- Progressive Waste Solutions, a Canada-based company, Eastern Resources Recycling of Yaphank and Omni Recycling of Babylon -- got permission to use the railroad to move municipal trash off the Island. Progressive, the larger of the three, picks up garbage for Southampton, Riverhead, East Hampton and Southold -- East End towns that generate more garbage during summer, when their population grows.
Assemb. Phil Ramos (D-Brentwood), who took part in a protest last week against the rail plan by local residents and activists, said Brentwood is once again being dumped on because it's a poor community of mostly minority residents.
"Why don't they temporarily keep the garbage in the Hamptons?" Ramos said Tuesday. "It's their garbage."