By Lisa Scott and Nancy Marr
Planning and decision making in our county needs to be a more open, thoughtful process. There is a concern on the part of communities in the area surrounding the Brookhaven Town Landfill that the plans for closing it in 2024 are unclear and have not been fully disclosed to the public.
The League’s March 2021 TBR column on zero waste (https://tbrnewsmedia.com/making-democracy-work-how-can-we-get-to-zero-waste/) set the stage … our goal is to significantly reduce our garbage, but we are far from getting significant action from our neighbors (and our consumer/disposable society) in the next few years. Thus, what the Town of Brookhaven (TOB) does with the landfill site, the surrounding area, and the ash disposal will be a major factor for central Suffolk residents in the coming years.
The TOB landfill was established on vacant land zoned mostly residential in 1974. Hamlets, developments, neighborhoods now surround the landfill site, including the areas of North Bellport and Horizon Village.
Looking ahead to the closing of the landfill, TOB officials have proposed changing the zoning of 136 acres on the landfill site from residential to light industry and selling some of the land for an industrial park, with a codicil to prevent certain waste-related uses. (The remaining acres include the municipal recycling facility and yard waste and composting operations and undisturbed woodland.)
At the zoning hearing held by the TOB in July, residents from all parts of the town protested the plan to sell the acreage and suggested instead that the town seek community input about how to remediate and re-purpose the entire landfill property. Clearly information is required about possible contamination of water and soil and the testing results over the past 50 years (think of the Bethpage and Brookhaven Lab plumes).
The League is focused on civic education and government transparency. We urge the TOB Supervisor and Board to THINK BIG! The problems and possible solutions to the landfill closure, possible pollution, health effects and ash-disposal are just one part of a proposed ongoing discussion.
Appointing a sustainability committee could lead the TOB toward better understanding of the problem and solutions and lead a community education effort. The town needs to communicate the issues openly with the public and hold public listening sessions to get constituents’ input. Garbage itself, and its costs in dollars, health, property values, and yes, our children’s future, MUST be described and garbage volume reduced significantly. If the landfill is to close in 2024, time is of the essence. Everyone should have the opportunity to be heard.
In a time of contentiousness and public strife, it’s critical that government brings its citizens/residents into the tent and that accurate, thorough information is the basis. The people must be heard, and decision-making must be transparent and accessible. The Town of Brookhaven owes this to the people who elected them and placed their trust in these representatives.
Lisa Scott is president and Nancy Marr is vice-president of the League of Women Voters of Suffolk County, a nonprofit nonpartisan organization that encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government and influences public policy through education and advocacy. Visit www.lwv-suffolkcounty.org or call 631-862-6860.