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Brookhaven dumps plan to build ashfill to collect burned trash

Brookhaven residents last October rallied against a proposed

Brookhaven residents last October rallied against a proposed ashfill. Credit: Morgan Campbell/Morgan Campbell

Citing cost estimates that had skyrocketed since the project was proposed four years ago, Brookhaven officials said Thursday the town would scrap plans to build an ash landfill and instead seek a new strategy for disposing household waste.

Brookhaven officials had considered the ashfill as a partial replacement for the existing town landfill, which is due to close in December 2024, when it is expected to run out of capacity. The ashfill was to have been built next to the landfill on Horseblock Road in Brookhaven hamlet.

But Supervisor Edward P. Romaine said Thursday the cost of constructing the ashfill, initially projected at about $32.25 million, had quintupled to more than $178 million. The projected expense ballooned largely because of the cost of building retaining walls at the site, said Matt Miner, the town's chief of operations.

"This proved to be far more costly than we thought," Romaine said in an interview.

Brookhaven's decision saves the town the cost and headaches of building a facility that would have faced opposition from neighbors and environmental activists. But it raises questions about how Long Island municipalities will dispose of waste after the Brookhaven landfill closes.

About half of Long Island's towns ship household trash to waste-to-energy plants operated by Morristown, New Jersey-based Covanta, which transfers incinerated trash to landfills run by Brookhaven and Babylon towns. Babylon officials have said they plan to close their ashfill within 10 years.

Other Long Island municipalities ship waste directly to landfills in upstate New York or out of state.

Abena Asare, a member of Brookhaven Landfill Action and Remediation Group, a community group opposed to the ashfill, applauded the town's decision but said officials still must develop a comprehensive solid waste plan, especially strategies for substantially reducing garbage.

"Folks in this area have had to deal with so much with this landfill site and all the issues there," Asare said Thursday. "I’m glad that [the ashfill plan] has been stopped and put on a pause. It gives us the chance as a town to actually do the hard work to actually be accountable for our waste that doesn’t make a victim of the North Bellport area or anywhere else."

Miner said Brookhaven's contract with Covanta ends in 2024. The town plans to consider options that could include incinerators, landfills and other types of waste disposal facilities, he said.

Covanta officials had expressed support for the ashfill, saying it would be the least expensive means of disposing ash. Without the ashfill, incinerated trash would have to be shipped hundreds of miles to landfills in Pennsylvania and Ohio, Covanta said.

In a statement, Covanta said it "had hoped to avoid having to secure the disposal of ash off island, considering the financial and traffic implications for Long Island," adding that shipping ash off the Island would add about 35,000 truck trips annually to Long Island roads.

Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Farmingdale-based Citizens Campaign for the Environment, called the town's decision not to build the ashfill "a strong public victory."

"For far too long, the communities around the landfill have shouldered the toxic burden of waste disposal for Long Island," said Esposito, who was part of a town committee that issued a report last month recommending the town not build the ashfill. "None of the communities agreed to be the garbage capital of Long Island and therefore they shouldn’t be treated as such."

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