The Village News: Op-Ed

Normally, the phrase “Op-Ed” stands for “opposite the editorial page,” but here on, it stands for “Opinion-Editorial.” Our Op-Ed piece's express the opinion of a writer who is unaffiliated with and the writer is solely responsible for the content of the Op-Ed piece. Generally, our Op-Ed pieces are fewer than 1,000 words in length and they should be in good taste and not libelous. Our Editorial Board would be glad to consider your Op-Ed piece for publication.



March 8, 2021

Ashfill Plan Ditched? Does CLOSED Really Mean CLOSED?
Op-Ed by Cheryl A. Felice

I write to you today to express my considerable concerns regarding Brookhaven Town’s recent rejection of the 59-acre ash fill project located adjacent to the Brookhaven Solid Waste Management Facility (“landfill”). Both sites are located within the boundaries of the South Country Central School District, where I reside.

As a Board member of the South Country Central School District, and a member of the Brookhaven Chapter of the NAACP, the Bellport, Hagerman, East Patchogue Alliance, and BLARG (Brookhaven Landfill Action Remediation Group,) but not speaking on behalf any of those groups, my concerns for my neighbors in the area surrounding the landfill and expressed here, are either of my own or to reiterate concerns already raised by the groups previously mentioned.

While the Town’s rejection cites only “cost” as a concern, no mention was made of the environmental, health, air quality, water quality, or the disparate adverse impact upon economically disadvantaged residents, and people of color who live in the area surrounding the landfill/ashfill. No mention was made of the numerous community groups and members throughout the area and Long Island who have been successfully organizing during a pandemic to have their voices heard who truly deserve much of the credit for brining awareness to this environmental injustice.

It was also disappointing to learn that the ashfill project has been pursued by the Town since at least 2017 when it received a NYS grant for shared services, misleading the local residents in its commitment to fully close the landfill. Sadly, little information was made transparent to the community at that time, despite the Town’s knowledge of the adverse impact the current landfill already placed upon the South Country area. Again, numerous community groups and members throughout the area and Long Island made their voices heard, but none received recognition for doing so.

While assembling an Ad-Hoc committee to review the Town’s ashfill (landfill extension) proposal and advise the Town Board seemed like a good gesture, the Town fell short of citing the environmental impact it would have on the residents surrounding the landfill which was gratefully identified by the Ad-Hoc committee.

It’s important to also note that over the last decades, the Town’s inability to contain the leachate plumes and airborne particulate matters have been a continuing problem. The New York State Carmans River Watershed Protection and Management Plan of 2013 highlights that as well. The School District has been burdened with repeated odor events at the landfill, some of which caused school district students and staff to go home because of the odor, while residents in the area remain saddled with odors, irritants and illness at their homes and on their property.

Now that voices have been heard, the historic problems with the waste disposal system in the Town needs to work as partners with South Country community, who has endured almost 50 years of environmental pollution from the existing landfill. Partners in rectifying the environmental and economic injustices the Town has imposed on these neighborhoods for all too long. Hopefully, the landfill is still slated to close in 2024. I say this because the Town’s ashfill plan was seen by many as to be nothing more than a plan to EXTEND the life of the landfill while Brookhaven Town officials kept promising it will close. This is I know for certain; the community will hold the Town accountable for just that. CLOSED MEANS CLOSED!

Just prior to rejecting the ashfill plan, the Town announced that it would join the League of Conservation Voters, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, and other environmental groups in supporting the efforts of NYS Sen. Kaminsky and NYS Assemblyman Englebright to pass Extended Producer Responsibility, calling for manufacturers to reduce wasteful packaging and promote recycling and reusing materials that end up on our waste stream. This is another good gesture, but why so late? This action does little to address the global problem of waste management of 1.5 million people thrown upon the same small community. At least it’s a start.

Since every Brookhaven taxpayer funds the cost of waste management, then both community members and environmental professionals are needed to guide the Town through the process of planning for 21st century. Waste reduction, waste disposal and recycling, with an eye towards a regional waste management solution should not ask one community, the same community to endure the entire garbage crisis alone. Let’s not continue to burden an already over-burdened township and the people the Town officials are sworn to protect.

Cheryl A. Felice