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Brookhaven Rail Terminal halts used oil shipments

A train at the Brookhaven Rail Terminal on

A train at the Brookhaven Rail Terminal on Aug 2, 2013. Credit: Newsday / Jeffrey Basinger

Brookhaven Rail Terminal in Yaphank has agreed to stop monthly shipments of more than 300,000 gallons of used oil that the town calls "highly toxic."

The terminal "secreted and concealed their used oil transloading activities from the town for over a year," attorneys for the Town of Brookhaven said in a court filing last month.

Lawyers for the terminal said in a letter of reply that the town was aware of the used oil shipments, but it will nonetheless "promptly cease all further" shipments while it pursues an agreement with the town.

The terminal also said that it disagreed with the town's argument that oil waste was "solid waste" that was covered under federal regulations.

A federal judge found last June that the Brookhaven Rail Terminal had been conducting illegal sand mining at the site, and that it had excavated dangerously close to the underground water supply.

The terminal had said it was removing sand as part of an expansion that would add 18,000 feet of railroad track, but the judge said sand mining was "entirely independent of any rail construction or development," and netted the owners upward of $10 million.

U.S. District Court Judge Gary Brown, sitting in Central Islip, said an expert witness had testified that the terminal was planning to excavate to within 15 feet of the aquifer. That, the judge said, "presents irreparable risks of contamination of drinking water supplies."

The town, citing that threat to the aquifer, said in a Dec. 17 letter to the judge that it "only recently ascertained that the BRT [terminal] defendants . . . have since September 2013 been importing, exporting, storing and otherwise transloading 300,000-400,000 gallons per month of 'used oil' and 'waste oil' without any permits or authority to do so."

In another part of the letter, the town said the oil was "highly toxic," but it did not elaborate. The town did not say where the oil originated or where it was being shipped.

Both the town and terminal declined to comment Wednesday.

The privately owned terminal opened on 28 acres in September 2011 with promises that it would take trucks off Long Island roadways by increasing rail freight shipments of gravel and other goods.

The terminal has since argued that it was not subject to local environmental regulations because it was operating under federal rules after getting approval from the U.S. Surface Transportation Board in 2010 to operate a short line railroad.

It also argued before the transportation board that it was not subject to federal licensing and environmental regulations because it was a spur, where rail cars are loaded and unloaded.

It also said that any restrictions that applied to its original 28-acre site did not apply to the 93 acres it acquired later for its expansion.

The terminal said in its letter to the judge that it "has taken ample and adequate steps to ensure that there is no serious threat of groundwater contamination as a result of used oil transloading on BRT's premises."

Online federal court records show that the judge issued an order Dec. 18 saying he would take no further action at this time because of the terminal's statement that it had stopped the oil activity and was attempting a settlement with the town.

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