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North Hempstead board nixes solar panels at landfills

Igor Sikiric, executive director of the Town of

Igor Sikiric, executive director of the Town of North Hempstead Solid Waste Management Authority, stands atop one of the town's two landfills. (Dec. 17, 2013) Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

The North Hempstead Town Board has shot down a proposal to erect solar panels on Port Washington's two shuttered landfills.

The board voted 6-0 on Tuesday night against the plan, which would have allowed a private company, SunEdison Government Solutions of Maryland, to erect two 2-megawatt solar-energy plants on the town's landfills off West Shore Road.

At the nearly three-hour meeting, residents voiced concerns about whether the panels could affect protective caps on the landfills that keep toxins contained, and what they described as a lack of clear information about the plan.

"That is not an empty parcel of land that's just waiting for development," said Rosemary Konatich of Port Washington. "It is there with very complex systems in place to protect our community. Do not lose sight of that."

Some expressed concern that members of the Port Washington Landfill Citizens Advisory Committee, formed in 1983 after environmental troubles at the landfills, were not made aware of the town's plans earlier, despite two consent agreements mandating the committee be included on landfill talks.

"It's just like nobody even bothered to tell us," said Patricia Van Dusen, a Port Washington resident. "I want to know why we didn't know about it two years ago."

The town hired a solar-energy consultant about two years ago and so far has paid it about $76,000. The town stood to make about $50,000 to $200,000 a year on the SunEdison lease. Power from the panels would have gone into the grid.

After Port Washington resident Jon Schuyler Brooks, an environmental attorney, raised a question about a pending $17 million federal lawsuit the state filed in November against the town and 10 other entities over the landfill, the board went into executive session. It emerged to vote against the project.

"There's no question that we want to be involved with renewable energy," Supervisor Judi Bosworth said before her vote. "The time frame of this and the lack of public input leads me to believe that this is not the time for us to go forward."

"The community needed to be more involved," said Councilwoman Dina De Giorgio, who represents the area. "At this point, we need to do more."

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