State and Brookhaven Town officials Monday called on state environmental authorities to crack down on compost facilities suspected of illegally mulching trees and other debris.
Assemb. Steven Englebright (D-Setauket) and state Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) said they may introduce legislation that would grant the state Department of Environmental Conservation greater enforcement powers over mulching. Englebright said court decisions have limited what the DEC can do.
"They should have the ability to regulate the activities of mulching and have the same kind of administrative permitting rigor that would be applied for solid waste material of a more conventional sort," Englebright said. "They don't have that right now."
A DEC spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.
Compost and mulching facilities generally are regulated by the DEC, which grants permits limiting how much debris can be processed. The DEC loosened some restrictions after superstorm Sandy in 2012.
Brookhaven Supervisor Edward P. Romaine said officials are concerned about potentially dangerous mold and spores from facilities in communities such as Yaphank, East Patchogue and Manorville. The town has sought unsuccessfully for a court order to shut down a Middle Island facility that he said has created 30- to 40-foot high piles of debris.
"It affects all the neighbors. We've had numerous fires at this facility in the past," Romaine said, referring to the Middle Island site. "There's places all over the town that we have received complaints."
LaValle said he believes DEC officials are reviewing regulations. "The DEC really needs to, in my judgment, keep one step ahead of the individuals maintaining these sites," he said. "I do believe agencies have to move quickly because people's health is at stake."
Gail Lynch-Bailey, president of the Middle Island Civic Association, said the mulch facility in her community produced "unbearable" odors.
"It really is such a nightmare for everyone living next to it," she said. "Last summer, people had to leave their homes."