Complex Situation: Town Says Plan For Old Bethpage Solid Waste Facility Has Not Been Formally Proposed

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(Photos by Christopher Birsner)

The Town of Oyster Bay is looking to clear up confusion surrounding plans for the Old Bethpage Solid Waste Complex, located on 101 Bethpage-Sweet Hollow Rd., after the Plainview-Old Bethpage Central School District board of education sent a letter to the town expressing concerns about the plans.

On Dec. 10, the town began a comment period on its 10-year Local Solid Waste Management Plan (LSWMP), which is required by the New York State Department of Enviornmental Conservation (NYSDEC). The plan included many ideas for dealing with solid waste in town, including how to modernize the solid waste complex, which currently stands partially-vacant. Possible site improvements include expanding and consolidating resident drop-off facilities, a solar farm and a potential recycling facility.

On Jan. 7, the school board sent a letter addressed to Supervisor Joseph Saladino, the town board, the Town Department of Environmental Resources and the Department of Public Works expressing its “strong opposition” of the potential expansion.

“Our primary concern is the close proximity of the site to the Old Bethpage Elementary School, where children play outdoors throughout the day, as well as residential homes and senior citizen housing,” the letter states. “The proposed expansion creates the potential for exhaust from idling trucks, odors, pest problems and other issues, which will put the health and comfort of our students, our staff and our residents at risk.

“This site was also once considered the third most toxic landfill in New York State, and is situated over the deep flow recharge zone of Long Island’s aquifer system, where much of the region’s groundwater is recharged or cleaned. Expanding waste management activities on such a fragile site invites a host of environmental problems that could plague the area for decades to come.”

The board asked if the town could hold a public forum on the matter and also if the town could extend the comment period for at least a month. A week later, Commissioner of Public Works Richard Lenz and Deputy Commissioner John Tassone responded by sending a letter back to the board of education, stating that while they are exploring options for improvements to the complex, that nothing stated in the plan is binding. They also state that they only seek to modernize the transfer station for solid waste and recyclable materials, not reactivate the landfill.

“One of the primary components of the LSWMP is to assess existing and alternate solid waste management programs and facilities, which is why various potential disposal methods are described,” the response stated. “The town does wish to pursue new or renovated facilities as part of the request for proposals (RFP) process, as the existing transfer station does not provide the sufficient space to sort materials. We have no intention of pursuing construction of our own waste-to-energy plant.”

While there are ideas mentioned for modernizing the Old Bethpage Solid Waste Complex in its solid waste management plan, the town says nothing in it is binding and that they will be submitting requests for proposals in the coming weeks.

The letter states that the goal of a new transfer station would be to sort recyclables from waste in an enclosed facility, which they say should reduce noise and odor in the neighborhood. They say the modernization would also reduce truck traffic. According to the commissioners, the town will need to file an RFP for this, plus any of the ideas at the complex.

“If and when such proposals are received, the town will have something of substance to share with the community and provide an opportunity for residential input,” they said.

The town board last week approved a week extension of the comment period on the LSWMP, concluding the comment period on Jan. 31, but town spokesman Brian Nevin said in a statement that the plan is unrelated to any RFP for modernizing the Old Bethpage Solid Waste Complex.

With the comment period complete, all written comments for the management plan will be compiled and the town will write responses to the comments. The draft will then be updated and then will be sent to the NYSDEC for further review. After the review, the town will begin to implement the plan and report to the NYSDEC as required. To see a copy of the LSWMP as it stands, visit www.oysterbaytown.com/departments/public-works.

The town will be issuing an RFP in the coming weeks and will be looking into ways to modernize the complex, which will allow them to look at the potential cost of a modernization.

“Our plan is to bring in community input once we have something to present,” Nevin said.

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