At last, the way forward is clear for the expansion of the Brookhaven Rail Terminal.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation has ruled unambiguously on most of the environmental issues at the root of the long-running dispute between the Yaphank facility and the Town of Brookhaven. The decision provides a road map both parties should embrace. Long Island sorely needs the terminal to help reduce the truck traffic that batters and jams our roads.

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The DEC fined the terminal $150,000 because it had no permit to use uncontaminated construction debris to fill in and grade the land where the existing facility sits, nor to move around other construction debris on the expansion site. Two debris piles contain pesticides and must be taken to a landfill off Long Island. Two other piles can go to a Long Island landfill. A fifth pile, the DEC said, appears clean. If the terminal follows the DEC's disposal schedule, a separate $350,000 fine will be waived.

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What's more significant is that the DEC found no threats to groundwater from the excavation of sand on the expansion site -- as the town charged. Unresolved by the DEC is whether the terminal needed a sand-mining permit for that excavating.

The terminal should pay the fine, remove the piles, and learn -- finally -- that it's important to follow the law. Brookhaven should drop any baseless contentions.

And both should respect the DEC's impending ruling on sand mining, and start working together as partners to advance this endeavor that will benefit the entire region.