The Town of Hempstead Board voted at a Sept. 8 virtual meeting to increase the fine for illegal dumping in the town from $1,500 to $10,000 per incident.
Town Supervisor Donald Clavin said the board is worried about a potential spike in illegal dumping once the Town of Brookhaven, in Suffolk County, closes its last landfill in 2024.
According to a Hempstead spokesman, the town disposes of its waste by incinerating it at the Covanta waste-to-energy plant in Westbury, which burns garbage to make electricity. The ash is then sent to the Brookhaven landfill.
When the Brookhaven landfill closes, Hempstead will have to send its ash elsewhere, perhaps out of state, but where precisely is uncertain, the spokesman said. What is clear, Clavin said, “we’re going to face the cost associated with shipping it off. That’s going to be a budgetary cost, and we’re going to have to accept that.
“When people close these dumps, and it’s going to cost more to get ash or any other garbage off Long Island, we’re going to see people look for alternatives,” Clavin said. “One of these alternatives will be illegal dumping.”
Commercial contractors and landscapers pay to dispose of their waste at Hempstead Town facilities. If the town’s disposal costs increase, those costs are passed on to contractors and landscapers in increased fees, so officials said they worry that at least some may turn to dumping their waste illegally in places like the woods off the Meadowbrook Parkway.
That has, at times, already happened. In 2018, Newsday reported Jose Cruz Maltez, a Valley Stream contractor, admitted to hauling 80,000 pounds of waste from Queens and dumping it in Uniondale, off the Meadowbrook Parkway.
Clavin, a member of the Long Island Regional Council, said he attended a meeting earlier this year at which municipal leaders, waste management professionals, environmental advocates, developers and other industry leaders raised awareness of waste management on Long Island.
“Nine months ago,” he said, “a study on Long Island revealed all of our dumps will be filled to capacity within the next three years.”
The Brookhaven landfill is predicted to close between 2024 and 2025, which, according to the supervisor, is causing a Long Island waste crisis. According to the Long Island Recycling Initiative, the facility accepts roughly 2,000 tons of dredge spoil, 24,000 tons of street-sweeping refuse and 370,000 tons of incinerator ash each year.
Brookhaven’s closure will leave more than 720,000 tons of waste and 350,000 pounds of ash from waste-to-energy plants on Long Island with no destination. Alternatives will have to be found.
Brookhaven is not the only Long Island landfill expected to close. In 2018, Newsday reported that the Island’s three remaining municipal landfills other than Brookhaven are all expected to close over the next 13 years.
In a news release, Hempstead Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby stated, “By taking action to prevent illegal dumping of waste, we are protecting the quality of life of Town of Hempstead residents.”
Councilman Anthony D’Esposito said, “While we hope that this legislation doesn’t need to be heavily utilized, we need to be realistic and take preventative action.”
Many landfills have closed over the years. In the Town of Hempstead, before Norman J. Levy Park and Preserve in Merrick became a nature preserve off the Meadowbrook Parkway in 2000, it was a landfill that reached capacity and closed in 1984. Clavin recalled the dump that it once was, before it was covered over with plastic lining and soil, and trees and shrubs were planted there. He is urging Long Island municipalities to start thinking about the time when Long Island landfills will close and take “proactive” steps to prevent illegal dumping.
Hempstead residents are encouraged to report illegal dumping in their communities to the Hempstead Department of Sanitation’s Code Enforcement Division at (516) )378–4210. Code enforcement officers have been directed to patrol for any signs of illegal dumping.