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DEC asked to probe debris for contamination at Yaphank rail terminal

This aerial image, provided by the Town of

This aerial image, provided by the Town of Brookhaven, shows the Brookhaven Rail Terminal site, left, in Yaphank on May 2014. Credit: Town of Brookhaven

A federal judge has asked the state Department of Environmental Conservation to "make an inquiry" into potentially contaminated debris that was dumped on the grounds of the Brookhaven Rail Terminal in Yaphank.

Magistrate Judge Gary R. Brown of U.S. District Court in Central Islip said in an order issued late Wednesday that the DEC should report back to him on its findings within 60 days, but no later than 90 days.

The judge said the DEC should advise him within 14 days whether it can comply with his ruling.

The Town of Brookhaven claims in a federal lawsuit that the terminal operators dumped, or allowed the dumping, of the type of debris that would commonly be found in a New York City landfill.

The town tested the material and its expert determined it was contaminated and threatened the underground water supply, it said. The terminal has said that in 2014 it conducted environmental tests on materials found at the site and determined there was no fill or dumping there. But the terminal has refused to make its test results public.

A spokeswoman for the terminal, Judy White, said Thursday that it had been in contact with the DEC before the judge's order, and had turned over its testing results to the state agency.

The DEC did not return telephone calls and emails seeking comment.

At a hearing last week, the judge denied a request by the town that he order the rail terminal to remove 15,000 to 20,000 cubic yards of debris, and instead said he would seek to involve the DEC.

The agency has not replied for more than a week to Newsday's request for information about what, specifically, it has found at the site. The DEC said in emails it had "an enforcement action" at the site in 2012 and "the 2014 matter deals with contaminated materials." It has not revealed the nature or results of the 2012 "enforcement action."

The judge has told the town and the terminal to exchange a list of demands in an effort to resolve their dispute, and said he would schedule a settlement conference if the attorneys thought he could help them reach a resolution.

The town and the terminal are also battling in court and with regulatory agencies over whether the terminal's railroad status exempts it from certain town regulations, such as environmental rules.

Brown barred the terminal last June from further sand mining at the site because of the risk to the aquifer, and rejected its claim that it was only expanding its rail system.

The Suffolk County district attorney's office has confirmed it is investigating a complaint received about the site from DEC, but has refused to say what the referral was about.


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