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Trash-talking students in Ohio have a lot to say about Medford waste project

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Edward P. Romaine.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Edward P. Romaine. Credit: Randee Daddona

Before they approved a Medford facility that would ship construction debris off Long Island, Brookhaven officials heard from community residents, environmental activists — and students from an Ohio school more than 600 miles away.

About 30 to 40 seventh- and eighth-graders from Fostoria, Ohio — the home of Sunny Farms landfill, a potential destination for waste from the Medford site — wrote last month to Brookhaven Supervisor Edward P. Romaine to express their views about the project.

The letters, written as part of a class project, expressed a range of opinions, but most opposed the Medford plan because of its potential impact on their community, said the students’ teacher.

"When they hear that this much trash is coming ... it just makes sense for kids to be concerned about the environment," said Mallie Grim, an English teacher at Fostoria Junior Senior High School. "They say, ‘Why is this in our hometown? We don’t want Fostoria to become this giant symbol of trash.’ "

Despite the letters, the town board last month voted 7-0 to approve special permits and waivers for Peconic Environmental Services Corp. to build the transfer station at an existing salvage yard on Peconic Avenue. Peconic Environmental is affiliated with Gershow Recycling, the owner of the site.

The project is one of several transfer stations proposed by Long Island waste haulers in recent years as they prepare for the expected 2024 closure of the Brookhaven Town landfill, one of the last remaining places on Long Island where construction and demolition debris may be legally buried.

Hauppauge lawyer J. Timothy Shea, who represents Gershow and Peconic, declined to comment on Monday.

During a February public hearing, Shea said the facility would process 700 to 800 tons of construction-related waste a day. Debris would be moved to rail cars to be transported off Long Island to landfills as far away as Ohio, he said.

Shea said at the hearing that he would discuss concerns about the Ohio landfills with Gershow officials, adding some states are moving toward banning the burial of construction debris, known in the waste industry as C-and-D.

"We don’t want to contribute to somebody else’s problems," Shea said then. "Long Island is probably going to be one of the ones that is not accepting C-and-D, and we need to find a solution to that problem."

Grim said she assigned her students to research the landfill issue because Sunny Farms, a 510-acre facility that can process up to 7,500 tons of trash a day, has generated debate in Fostoria, a community of about 13,225 residents located 108 miles west of Cleveland.

She said most of her 55 students chose to write letters to Romaine as part of the project. Students were free to express their own opinions, either for or against the Medford proposal, she said, adding the class did not receive a response from Brookhaven.

Brookhaven did not respond to a Newsday request for comment.

"It’s something that they’re going to have to continue to think about," Grim said, referring to her students. "It’s going to affect their children, especially if they continue to live in this area."

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