A demonstration at the entrance of Brookhaven Town Landfill on Horseblock Road on Saturday morning was organized by the Landfill Remediation Group. About 50 people attended the protest and listened to several speakers discuss the issues that the current landfill and the proposed ashfill present.
Bellport resident Monique Fitzgerald, an advocate and member of the group, introduced the speakers and spoke herself. She pointed out the reason for the closure of the landfill is slated for 2024 is because it is projected to reach capacity then.
“We are all here to close this landfill down,” Fitzgerald said of an ash monofill nearby to the current site. “They’re putting something right next to it — the same thing: toxic chemicals.”
The site of the landfill and the proposed ashfill are both located in North Bellport, a community featuring a significant population of minorities. The Department of Environmental Conservation indicated that environmental justice may be a relevant topic in a future environmental impact statement regarding the operation.
“Although the Town of Brookhaven is the SEQR lead agency for this project, DEC staff are working with the town concerning how to incorporate environmental justice issues into the environmental impact statement process,” reads an email from a spokesperson representing the state DEC. “At this time, DEC does not have a permit application under review for this proposal. Once a permit application is submitted, we will also ensure that environmental justice requirements are met as part of DEC’s permitting process.”
Freya Cruz, an organizer with the Suffolk County chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America who also attended the demonstration, noted the positioning of the current landfill and the proposed ashfill sites.
“You go to the Hamptons, Greenport, [and] Manorville. You don’t see any of this stuff there,” Cruz said. “Look at the streets. You won’t see this where they are trying to raise the property values, where they are trying to appeal to that constituency of the local landed gentry. This is not just an issue of environmental justice. This is also an issue of economic justice.”
Dr. Georgette Grier-Key, president of the Brookhaven NAACP and Bellport resident, also spoke at the event and discussed racial justice.
“You have all the trucks going through here. What do you think that means for emissions?” Grier-Key said. “Noise emissions that go through our communities: what does that do to us?”
Cruz noted that approximately 80 percent of incinerators in the U.S. are located in low-income areas, according to research published in 2019. And several speakers at the protest pointed out the significance of Covanta, the incinerator company on Long Island in which 88 percent of the ash created there arrives at the landfill in North Bellport.
“They are playing a big role in the future of our landfill, in the future of our water, [and] in the future of our public health,” said Abena Asare, a leader of the Landfill Remediation Group who also spoke at the protest.
Brookhaven Town provided a statement regarding the protest: “Brookhaven Town has extended the EIS comment period for the proposed RRRF facility to Dec. 2 to ensure that all residents have an opportunity to be heard,” according to a statement relayed by a Brookhaven Town spokesperson. “The town welcomes all comments from residents regarding solid-waste disposal and any effective, cost-efficient methods of dealing with the garbage our population produces. The town is keeping all options open and has not made any final decisions, and is awaiting recommendations from the waste management advisory committee. Each option has a different tax and cost impact on our residents.”