As Brookhaven officials search for a way to plug a $3.5-million hole in the town's budget caused by the loss of a permit to accept sludge into the municipal landfill, angry residents are calling for the closure of the facility altogether.
The state took away Brookhaven's permit to accept sludge at the Yaphank landfill after dozens of students and teachers at a Bellport intermediate school reported last week feeling nauseated from foul odors coming from the nearby dump.
Supervisor Mark Lesko is working with town board and other officials to find a way to deal with the "devastating and unexpected" revenue loss, said town spokesman Jack Krieger.
But members of residents groups say the landfill is a dangerous nuisance.
Jennifer Monte, whose daughter Morgan, 10, attends Frank P. Long Intermediate School in Bellport, said she knows the town is unlikely to shutter the landfill. The site generated $68.1 million in 2010, which is about 26 percent of the town's current-year budget, town officials said.
But Monte added that she believes the landfill is too dangerous to keep open.
"I don't have faith in these public officials. Everything is money, money, money," she said. "Our children are worth more."
In a letter sent Tuesday to residents, Lesko defended the landfill as "one of the most heavily regulated landfills in the country." He added in an interview Wednesday that the site is a "significant source of revenue and I don't think it's realistic to argue that we should be closing the landfill."
But residents at Tuesday night's Brookhaven board meeting were unconvinced.
Some members of the student-parent group marched in a circle outside Town Hall, waving signs and shouting: "Close the dump! Save our school!"
Several parents said the landfill stench forces kids to stay indoors for recess. One young girl held a neon pink poster that read, "Mom says clean up this mess."
The permit change by the state Department of Environmental Conservation will cost the town a $3.5-million contract with New York City to accept monthly shipments of 10,000 tons of sludge, a byproduct of treated sewage.
The town board will discuss the loss of revenue at a town work session at 1:30 p.m. April 7, town officials said.