A major recycling company's plan to build a waste transfer station at its Medford headquarters is facing skepticism from residents and environmentalists who say Brookhaven Town should explore ways to reduce trash.
Gershow Recycling Corp. and its subsidiary, Peconic Environmental Services, are seeking approvals for a 38,770-square-foot building to collect about 700 to 800 tons of construction and demolition debris a day. The material would be transported by truck and train to landfills in Ohio.
The company's lawyer, J. Timothy Shea of Hauppauge, said the facility, on Peconic Avenue alongside Long Island Rail Road tracks, would help Gershow prepare for the anticipated 2024 closure of the Brookhaven Town landfill, one of Long Island's few remaining depositories for construction and demolition material.
Environmental activists, speaking at a Feb. 11 virtual public hearing before the Brookhaven Town Board, said the town should shift its focus away from approving new waste-collection sites and toward policies that would encourage trash-reduction efforts.
"Any sustainable waste plan must include efforts to actually bring down waste," said Abena Asare of Brookhaven hamlet, a member of the Brookhaven Landfill Action & Remediation Group. The community group supports alternatives to landfills that they say disproportionately are sited in minority and low-income communities.
"Unfortunately, here in Brookhaven Town, we don’t have any measurable waste reduction targets," Asare said. "It’s really time to roll up your sleeves to create a waste plan that is rational and sustainable."
Some Medford residents said their community already has too many industrial facilities, including trash-processing sites. Don Seubert, a member of the Medford Taxpayers and Civic Association, said Gershow should provide studies of soil samples taken from the site and assess the project's impact on drinking water.
"We’re still ending up as the garbage capital," Seubert said. "We know there’s problems there that we’ve had in the past with air quality and fires."
Brookhaven officials said the 6.05-acre Gershow site is zoned for industrial uses. The company is seeking a special permit to operate a transfer station and waivers because the proposed 67-foot-high building would exceed height restrictions and would be near residential properties.
Town board officials did not say when they will vote on Gershow's application.
Shea defended the project, saying transfer stations will be needed when the town landfill closes. Besides the Gershow proposal, transfer stations have been proposed by other companies in Yaphank, Brentwood and elsewhere.
"It’s not going to solve all the problems, but it’ll help," Shea said of the Gershow project, adding that if transfer stations are not allowed on Long Island, "you’re going to have a problem," because some contractors may exacerbate Long Island's illegal dumping crisis. Officials have been alarmed in recent years by commercial debris dumped in parks, wooded areas and remote areas of Long Island.
"Then people are going to break the law," Shea said. "They’re going to place it in the pine barrens or dump it on the side of the road."
Shea said all waste processing in Medford would occur indoors, and a misting system would tamp down dust at the facility.
Brookhaven Councilman Dan Panico cast doubt on that, citing an unidentified location where he said a misting system "was virtually worthless."
Minding the waste
Gershow Recycling has proposed a waste transfer station in Brookhaven Town.
Location: 71 Peconic Ave., Medford
Lot size: 6.05 acres
Proposal: Construction of a 38,770-square-foot waste transfer building and small office building
Purpose: Receive construction and demolition debris, which would be transferred to trucks and trains for transport to landfills in Ohio
Employment: 12 construction jobs, six permanent jobs
Construction cost: $5.12 million