Railcars for hauling LI trash mistakenly sent to NJ, officials say

A worker walks past bales of garbage stacked A worker walks past bales of garbage stacked in the yard at the Progressive Waste Solutions transfer station in Holtsville on Thursday, July 24, 2014. Photo Credit: John Paraskevas

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Railcars that were supposed to be delivered to Long Island last week to haul away stockpiled municipal garbage were sent to the wrong state, further delaying the removal of an estimated 5,000 tons of waste, officials said.

The railcars were sent to New Jersey instead of Brentwood, where the garbage will be loaded, said Emily DeSantis, a spokeswoman for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, which regulates the garbage industry.

"Railcars are now expected to arrive at the transload site on Monday or Tuesday," DeSantis said in an email.

Some waste-management companies earlier this month notified their Long Island customers that until the backlog clears, their waste can no longer be accepted. The stockpiles of baled garbage were being stored at transfer stations at several collection and transfer facilities in Suffolk.

The trash will be loaded onto the empty railcars, known as gondolas, after they arrive at Elm Global Logistics' distribution site in Brentwood. The baled garbage will travel via LIRR tracks to Fresh Pond Yard in Queens, where the railcars will be switched onto a train operated by CSX, the freight transportation company, and taken to a landfill in Kentucky.

A spokesman for CSX on Friday blamed the delay on increased demand for the company's services, but did not dispute the DEC's explanation for the holdup.

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"Due to high demand for freight-rail services that CSX is experiencing across our network and congestion that demand is creating, delivery of the cars, unfortunately, will be delayed until the middle of next week," said the spokesman, Rob Doolittle.

The trash buildup, caused in part by an increase in the number of tourists and seasonal residents flocking to the East End in the summer, has overloaded garbage-handling facilities, including those in Holtsville, Yaphank and West Babylon, in recent weeks. Businesses also could not do as much cleaning up earlier in the spring because all the rain led to a later-than-usual rise in garbage volumes, according to industry representatives, carting firms and the DEC.

Typically, municipal garbage is loaded onto flatbed trucks and driven off Long Island to its final destination -- usually a landfill.

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But increased rail freight that led to a shortage of the trucks coming to Long Island has left transfer facilities unable to keep up with the volume of garbage coming in.

Garbage continues to be trucked off the Island, but not enough to keep pace with incoming volume, according to one of the waste management firms.

To alleviate the backlog, the DEC issued a temporary emergency authorization on July 18, enabling solid waste management companies to use the railroad to carry garbage off Long Island. The DEC's authorization is good for 30 days.

Progressive Waste Solutions, a Canada-based company, is one of several that have agreed to use the railroad.

Progressive picks up garbage for Southampton, Riverhead, East Hampton and Southold -- East End towns that generate more garbage during summer, when their populations swell.

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The delay, DeSantis said, has not caused an odor problem for residents or business owners who live and work near the garbage-processing facilities because the law requires the waste to be wrapped in industrial-strength plastic and deodorized.

"DEC has received only one odor complaint from an area in proximity to one of the affected areas," she said.

With Sarah Crichton

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