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Smithtown to study allowing indoor yard waste recycling center

This is Smithtown Town Hall in an undated

This is Smithtown Town Hall in an undated photo. Credit: Erin Geismar

Take it inside.

Smithtown officials plan to hire a consultant to help amend the town code to allow an indoor facility to compost and recycle yard waste and other organic debris.

The town won a $187,500 state grant last month and will match as much as $62,500 to pay for the consultant, town officials said.

Officials applied for the grant after Toby Carlson, who owns about 64 acres on Old Northport Road in Kings Park and operates the outdoor recycling company Power Crush at the site, proposed building a 200,000- to 300,000-square-foot indoor facility on 25 acres of the property to compost leaves, tree branches and other yard waste using new technology. He said he would invest between $25 million and $50 million in the project.

As many as 150 trucks go to Carlson's site daily in October, November and December -- the peak composting season -- to drop off bagged yard waste that carters pick up from municipalities, he said.

"It's a lot of handling and it's a lot of transportation work," Carlson said, adding that some contractors truck yard waste out of state for composting. "By recycling more of it in town . . . it reduces the amount of truck traffic we have going up and down the expressway."

Russell Barnett, Smithtown's environmental protection director, said the town collects leaves from residences and contracts with Islandia-based Trinity Transportation to truck them elsewhere for composting. The town pays Trinity $57 per ton and generates about 15,000 tons of leaves annually, he said. That adds up to about $855,000 per year.

Smithtown avoids costs associated with disposal of tree debris by grinding it at a town-owned facility in Kings Park to produce mulch, which is bagged and given away to residents and landscapers, Barnett said.

David Tonjes, an assistant professor in Stony Brook University's department of technology and society who teaches and researches solid waste management, said indoor composting facilities have the advantage of giving operators more control, processing material in less time and employing air filters that help absorb odors.

State Department of Environmental Conservation officials reported they are not aware of any indoor facilities that compost yard waste in New York. About 300 operations compost the waste in outdoor facilities.

Smithtown Councilman Edward Wehrheim said the town's consultant must develop code amendments that give the town some enforcement control.

"If something goes wrong with the facility for some reason, we don't want the DEC to have sole jurisdiction over it," said Wehrheim, noting that residential homes abut the site. "We're immediately answerable to those residents."

Michelle Gary, a member of neighborhood watch group Old Northport Road-Lawrence Road Task Force, said she is concerned with building a plant in Kings Park. Carlson's indoor plant "would be fantastic if it would not be in a residential area," she said.

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