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Garbage disposal costs to rise as Brookhaven Town landfill schedules to close by 2024

Garbage disposal costs in Riverhead Town are expected to increase soon, as municipalities are no longer being paid for recyclable materials and the Brookhaven Town landfill, which takes municipal solid waste from Riverhead, is scheduled to close by 2024.

Officials discussed the situation at Thursday’s Town Board work session. 

Riverhead Town’s residential garbage is collected though six garbage districts contracted to European American Waste Disposal of Wantagh, which won the bid on all six garbage districts in Riverhead.

From there, European American takes the town’s garbage to a transfer station at Brookhaven Town’s landfill. A company called Covanta then takes the trash to its waste-to-energy facility in Babylon, where it is incinerated. The ash goes back to Brookhaven’s landfill, which is licensed by the state to receive ash.

“There is going to be a garbage cost increase and the Brookhaven landfill is closing in 2024 and there is no plan as to where to bring our garbage to for the future,” said Councilwoman Jodi Giglio, the Town Board’s liaison for sanitation. 

The town’s garbage district, which picks up residential trash from the curb, has a current budget of $3.3 million and residents pay an annual fee ranging from $315 for a single-family house to $787.50 for a multi-family structure.

Deputy Town Attorney Ann Marie Prudenti said Thursday that foreign markets that used to accept recyclable materials from the United States — namely China — now prohibit these items from being sent there.

“We used to get paid for recyclables, now we’ve got to pay,” Ms. Giglio said. 

In addition, because of the increasing cost of garbage disposal, Riverhead is also cracking down on residents who put bulk items or yard waste at the curbside on regular garbage pickup days. 

The town has two pickups per week for household garbage, a paper recycling day for things like newspapers, copy paper and books; and co-mingled containers containing glass, tin and aluminum cans in a container given by the town. Bulk items, like appliances and furniture, are picked up on the last scheduled pickup day of the week, and no more than six bulk items are permitted. 

By putting out bulk items with regular trash, people are increasing the load that the carters must pickup, and subsequently filling up the truck faster.

Ms. Giglio said that people who put out bulk items with their household garbage will receive tickets for violating the town’s sanitation rules.

Garbage carters will take photographs of violations and email them to the town code enforcement office.

Ms. Giglio also said that carters will be aware when there is excessive garbage coming from one house on a regular basis. She said code enforcement will start questioning if that is an overcrowded house. 

Another factor that will affect disposal costs is a federal law that limits how far and how many hours per day a driver can drive, Ms. Giglio said. 

The town trucks that drop off Riverhead’s garbage at the Brookhaven landfill often have to wait more than an hour to do so, Ms. Prudenti said. 

The Long Island Regional Planning Council held a meeting on future garbage disposal plans for Long Island last Thursday, Feb. 27, in Melville. Michael White, the council’s vice chair, said in an interview last Friday that Brookhaven’s landfill handles about 350,000 tons of ash per year from incinerators (often called “waste-to-energy” facilities) while Babylon Town’s landfill handled about 50,000 tons of ash per year. 

“The cost of transporting off the island is becoming greater, and our garbage taxes are going to go up,” said Ms. Giglio, who attended the LIRPC meeting. “The mission of the regional planning council is to weigh it all and figure out how to reduce the amount of garbage we’re creating, and how to get it out of Long Island and where we’re going to take it.”

The closing of the Brookhaven landfill doesn’t immediately impact Southold Town, which has a contract with Babylon Town, which operates its own ash fill, according to Southold Supervisor Scott Russell. 

The Southold Town Board recently extended its contract with Babylon for two more years, ending in 2021, and all of the ash that gets generated goes to that location which is near the Covanta waste-to-energy facility in Babylon, according to Mr Russell. 

“Babylon just renewed its contract with Covanta until 2035,” Mr. Russell said. “When our contract expires next year, we will consider either extending it or look at other alternatives. In the meantime, none of our ash goes to Brookhaven, so we do not anticipate any problems should Brookhaven close its facility.”

Covanta has four waste-to-energy facilities on Long Island that feed the energy created into the PSEG-Long Island grid. Southold pays $85.40 per ton in its agreement with Babylon, officials there said.