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Source: Newsday

Brookhaven loses permit to accept sludge

BY SOPHIA CHANG

Posted: March 28, 2011
Originally Published: March 25, 2011

The state has yanked Brookhaven's permit to accept sludge at its town landfill after dozens of students and teachers at a Bellport school reported feeling nauseous from foul odors coming from the nearby dump on Thursday.

The permit change by the state Department of Environmental Conservation will cost the town a $3.5-million contract with New York City to accept monthly shipments of 10,000 tons of sludge, a byproduct of treated sewage.

"The town will, of course, comply with this DEC decision and no longer accept sludge at our landfill," town Supervisor Mark Lesko said in a statement.
He called the loss of the contract "devastating and unexpected" and, in an email, pledged to quickly find ways to plug the new hole in the town's $260-million budget.

At the start of the school day Thursday, about 65 students inside Frank P. Long Intermediate School reported feeling sickened by the stench coming from the landfill less than a half-mile away, according to South Country school district Superintendent Joseph Cipp.

Inspectors from the state, Suffolk police and local fire departments tested the air and determined it was not contaminated with toxins. Lesko ordered an immediate halt to all sludge deliveries Thursday while the DEC finished its investigation.

The DEC had received "numerous" complaints about the landfill since February, agency spokesman Bill Fonda said.

Those complaints and the Bellport incident prompted the agency to determine "that a modification of the permit to eliminate disposal of sludge as an authorized activity is appropriate. We have notified the Town accordingly," DEC regional director Peter Scully said Friday in a news release.

Cipp said the decision was "in the best interest of our school community and the county," and local environmentalists applauded the move.

"The community won a great victory," said Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment. Her group helped organize opposition to the sludge contract.

Town Councilwoman Connie Kepert, who represents the district where the landfill is, said she had heard complaints from nearby residents since the contract with the city began last June. "I think these odors were causing a major quality-of-life of issue for the residents," she said.

The budget will have to be resolved in other ways, Kepert said. "The cash cow of the town since the 1970s has been the landfill, and that burden has fallen disproportionately on the residents who live around the landfill," she said. "The town will have to come up with a solution."