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State DEC right to raise a stink

Long Island Compost in Yaphank (June 8, 2006)

Long Island Compost in Yaphank (June 8, 2006) Credit: Newsday/Daniel Goodrich

Though composting is an important element in managing our region's solid waste, a large facility for handling the raw materials of compost can be smelly, dusty and hazardous to the health of neighbors. So the state's Department of Environmental Conservation has done the right thing in cracking down on Long Island Compost in Yaphank.

Composting converts organic materials into rich soil and reduces the solid waste going to incinerators or getting shipped off-Island. That's useful. But big facilities can cause big problems.

This one receives leaves, grass clippings and wood chips, sends material to farms to be composted, and bags and sells compost and mulch. Its owners have tried to reduce the impacts, and promise to reduce future grass clippings they take in. But odors and dust persist.

Last week, DEC formally notified its operators about a change in the permit that has governed it since 2000. The agency will now require the company to construct a building to contain its yard-waste transfer operations and reduce the piles of wood chips. That will help nearby families that have been living with the dust and stench to breathe easier.

Long Island Compost disputes the DEC findings and recommendations and is appealing. But the agency seems justified in tightening the rules. For the sake of the long-suffering neighbors, we hope the appeals process and some ultimate resolution will not drag on for many more months.