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Source: Long Island Business News

DEC modifies permits for Long Island Compost


Posted: October 26, 2011
Originally Published: October 26, 2011

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation dealt a serious blow to the Long Island Compost facility in Yaphank today by modifying the company’s permit for certain parts of its solid waste operations.

The DEC modification removes the variance allowing the company to operate an unenclosed transfer station, limits the size of mulch piles at the facility and prohibits storage of uncured compost. These actions were taken after the DEC received several complaints from nearby residents regarding odors and dust emanating from the facility.

“We have determined that the facility has failed to effectively control off-site migration of odor and dust caused by yard waste transfer and other activities performed at this facility,” DEC Deputy Regional Permit Administrator George Hammarth wrote in a letter to Long Island Compost President Charles Vigglioti. “This odor and dust condition is unacceptable and requires that this Department modify the referenced Solid Waste Management Facility permit in order to correct the situation.”

“The [dust and odor] problems at the facility have been grossly exaggerated,” Vigliotti said in response.

But others disagree.

Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Farmingdale-based Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said she, along with 27 locally based groups, sent a letter to the DEC in August, asking the state agency to review the facility’s permits and rescind the variances that allowed them to operate in an open space. Esposito said waste management facilities across the nation are required to operate in an enclosed space so as not to affect the surrounding community.

“The place stunk,” Esposito said. “There were clouds of dusts so bad that you would have to put your windshield wipers on in your car when driving nearby. And there were genuine health impacts with that facility. The people don’t deserve that. This was a landmark victory for the community.”

The DEC issued its letter to Vigliotti earlier today, so he only had a few hours to review it, but said he was concerned with the department’s decisions and was studying the ramifications of the permit modifications.

“We’re a little concerned about our ability to continue operating,” Vigliotti said. “We were unaware the department was going to be doing this and we would have appreciated if it had engaged us in a productive dialogue prior to this action.”

He said Long Island Compost has made several attempts to control odor and dust issues at the facility, and the DEC’s action even comes on the heels of an Oct. 10 agreement between Long Island Compost and state officials to reduce the intake of grass clippings, a major source of foul odors, by 90 percent.

In his letter, Hammarth said Long Island Compost could respond by submitting a written statement to the DEC saying why the permit should not be modified. Alternatively the solid waste management company could request a hearing before the state department to argue its case. If neither of these measures are taken by Nov. 10, the modified permits will take effect as of Nov. 11. Vigliotti said the company is currently exploring all options available to it.

“If we’re unable to continue operating it will probably throw a monkey wrench into Long Island’s solid waste management plan,” Vigliotti said.

Esposito admitted Long Island needed compost facilities, but stressed that ones such as Long Island Compost also needed to be good neighbors.

“Communities can’t suffer because of any business,” she said.

Long Island Compost, which has operated out of its Yaphank location since 1998, employs approximately 180 people, and processes a majority of the yard waste collected by the Town of Brookhaven. The company also owns a much smaller facility in Westbury, although environmentalists say there haven’t been issues there due to its smaller size.