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Source: Newsday

Lesko: Brookhaven needs landfill's revenue

BY PATRICK WHITTLE

Posted: July 6, 2011
Originally Published: July 5, 2011

Brookhaven Supervisor Mark Lesko delivered a message of cold reality to the members of a new citizens committee that scrutinizes the town's landfill: Despite community desire to close the facility, the town is financially dependent on it.

A meeting last week was the first of the town's Landfill Liaison Committee, which was created in response to a March incident in which dozens of students and teachers at a Bellport school reported feeling nauseated from foul odors from the Horseblock Road dump.

Members of the group, which includes representatives from 16 community organizations, asked Lesko whether the town could make up the revenue the landfill generates and then close the facility. The landfill, which is set to reach capacity in 17 years, provided about two-fifths of Brookhaven's general fund revenue this year, town records state.

Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment and a member of the landfill committee, asked whether the landfill could be closed sooner "if the budget works."

Lesko -- who also said it was too soon to promise that the landfill would not be expanded once it reaches capacity -- was skeptical.

"You can't put a price on human health, and I know that, but 17 years comes up very quickly," he said. "We're going to either come up with a way to replace that revenue, or downsize the town, or, thirdly, you're looking at a tax increase."

The landfill committee will eventually play an advisory role in the town's decision about what to do with the landfill, and the revenue it provides, Lesko said. The committee is scheduled to continue meeting at least quarterly.

The landfill opened in 1974 and Brookhaven has operated it since 1976.

Community interest in -- and, in some corners, opposition to -- the landfill grew in March after the state took away Brookhaven's permit to accept sludge at the facility. The state made the decision after the students and teachers complained about the odors.

The liaison committee, which was created in June to help the town communicate with the public about the landfill, peppered Lesko with questions during Thursday's meeting. Residents were concerned about loud overnight work at the site, and about trash and trash bags left on the side of the road near the landfill.

Greg Miglino, chief of South Country Ambulance and a member of the committee, said he expects the landfill to remain a concern for residents

"I don't fear the landfill. I understand it's a necessary evil at this point," he said. "But as a leader of an organization I need to be able to tell people what we are walking into when we go to the landfill."