State threatens Town of Brookhaven with fines for odors from landfill

BROOKHAVEN, Long Island (WABC) -- Teachers and community members profiled in an Eyewitness News investigation related to allegations that a landfill in Long Island was violating state environmental laws and allowing potentially hazardous chemicals into the air say they are finally getting the action from the state they've been asking for.

Late last week, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation announced that it is demanding corrective actions from the Town of Brookhaven for violations of state environmental laws regulating air quality at the town landfill.

The order requires the town to take further measures to control potential contaminants coming from the landfill by enhancing air monitoring at the landfill and in the community; improving how it manages potentially hazardous gases on-site; and investing $150,000 in an Environmental Benefit Project.

The state is threatening the Town with a $100,000 penalty if the Town fails to follow the order.

"Really, kudos to them (the DEC) at this point because they really are listening to the community, having said that, I think they still have work to do," said Teresa Palermo, a retired teacher and cancer survivor who has long blamed the landfill for her cancer. "I couldn't believe it. It has been a long road."

The state is still investigating Palermo's and other teachers' assertions that an unusual number of teachers who worked at Frank P. Long Intermediate School, near the landfill, have died from cancer in recent years.

At the time of the Eyewitness News February 2018 report, 14 teachers had died. That number has risen to 17, according to Palermo.

Environmentalist advocate and Executive Director of the Citizens' Campaign for the Environment Adrienne Esposito called the order a step in the right direction.

"It's a relief to finally have this notice of violation," Esposito said. "For years we have been logging the public's complaints about the horrific odors. People think that odors are just a nuisance but they are a health threat."
The Town of Brookhaven estimates it has already spent $17 million on improvements intended to comply with DEC solid waste and odor management requirements.

In a statement, a Town spokesperson indicated the Town plans to continue efforts designed to eliminate odors from the landfill and ultimately close the landfill altogether.

The landfill is set to close in 2024.

Additionally the spokesperson added that the air quality exceedances that resulted in violations "were unpleasant but did not impact the health of our residents."

"In December 2018, Brookhaven notified the DEC, community residents and the press that work on the landfill capping, that month would require cutting into historic fill, creating a temporary odor event. The DEC agreed with Brookhaven at this time that such work was needed to provide long-term odor control. As expected, working during this period resulted in odor complaints from residents near the landfill from elevated levels of Hydrogen Sulfide, which causes a distinctive rotten egg smell."

The DEC will hold a community meeting October 10, from 6 to 9 PM, at the Medford Fire District, 171 Oregon Avenue, Medford, NY 11763, for community members who would like more information about efforts related to the landfill.

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