Long Island's first large-scale commercial indoor food waste processor has moved a step closer to construction after languishing for two years.
The Brookhaven Town Board approved a special permit last week for Long Island Compost in Yaphank to build a $40 million anaerobic digester.
Supporters said the facility would address years of complaints from neighbors that the composting operation produced too much dust, odor and noise from truck traffic.
"This is the most significant advancement in solid waste management in 30 years in New York State," said Adrienne Esposito, executive director for Citizens Campaign for the Environment in Farmingdale. "It's a game changer for solid waste."
Before the project can proceed, Brookhaven officials have to grant site plan approval and a building permit, and the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the Suffolk County Health Department have to approve.
Long Island Compost officials reached an agreement in 2013 with state officials and neighbors to build the digester. As part of the agreement, which state officials at the time described as "historic," LI Compost officials said the Horseblock Road facility would include enclosed tipping and bagging operations to prevent material from escaping, and roads would be paved to eliminate dust.
"We enjoy a great deal of support from the community to elected officials and regulating agencies from the state and county levels," Charles Vigliotti, chief executive of Long Island Compost, said Monday.
Vigliotti said he is cautiously optimistic the facility will be built, with private financing. "This is a highly sophisticated operation," Vigliotti said.
The digester will take organic waste and create a mix of fertilizer and gas, which will be used as fuel, said Armand D'Amato, partner and managing director of Park Strategies, a lobbying firm that represented the compost company at the meeting.
The process will reduce greenhouse emissions and keep food waste from the landfill, Esposito said.
Complaints from neighbors had prompted the company to hire D'Amato, brother of former U.S. Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, to lobby state officials who were pressing the firm to clean up the operation.
"The digester is a community driven solution to a lot of community problems," Esposito said. "We are delighted that this will advance and become a new project in Brookhaven that will solve some problems."
She added the technology was established and has worked well in Europe.
In recent months, several neighbors of Long Island Compost have sued the company and town and state officials, accusing the firm of deliberately delaying the project.
The neighbors' attorney, Richard Scheyer of Nesconset, did not return a call seeking comment. On Monday, Vigliotti said the suits were "frivolous."