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Editorial: Place Brookhaven landfill among top priorities

The Town of Brookhaven landfill located on Horseblock

The Town of Brookhaven landfill located on Horseblock Road in Yaphank. Credit: James Carbone, 2011

The No. 1 item on the to-do list for the soon-to-be elected supervisor of the Town of Brookhaven has to be the budget. Right after that has to be the landfill.

The landfill in Yaphank is a major source of revenue, but it's also a significant source of concern for those who live in its vicinity. The Brookhaven Community Coalition, Citizens Campaign for the Environment and local residents have asked the state's Department of Environmental Conservation to suspend the town's permit for the landfill.

The groups allege that the town has failed to live up to the conditions of the permit in a variety of ways, such as exceeding the maximum height of 270 feet, failing to prevent the escape of dirt and debris, and inadequately controlling the system that prevents leaching of toxic gunk into the groundwater.

So far, the request is only in the form of a letter. But if the town does not do some serious work to address these complaints about the day-to-day operations in Yaphank, the letter could ripen into a lawsuit. The town must act promptly, both to keep the lawsuit from happening and to deal with the legitimate concerns of the community.

It's difficult to imagine the DEC actually suspending the landfill's permit. It is a key to waste management for the whole Island. Under state law designed to protect our sole-source aquifer, Long Island landfills can no longer accept raw garbage. But they can bury ash and construction and demolition waste. Brookhaven and other municipalities ship raw garbage to the incinerator in the Town of Hempstead. Then Brookhaven buries the ash from its own garbage, Hempstead's, and others. So a sudden closing of the landfill would be a huge disruption to waste disposal. Also, if the landfill revenue were to suddenly stop flowing to the town, it would be a fiscal calamity.

Waste management is hardly a sexy issue. But for Brian Beedenbender, the Democratic candidate for supervisor in the special election on Nov. 6, or Suffolk Legis. Ed Romaine of Center Moriches, the Republican, trash must be, from day one, near the top of the heap of his concerns.