Just a few weeks ago, the Winters Bros. closed on over 200 acres of land neigh- boring the current Brookhaven Town landfill in Yaphank just south of Horse- block Road. The purchase of the property, according to Will Flower, senior vice president, will allow Brookhaven Rail, which will eventually operate under Shamrock Rail, to create a rail terminal facility to haul out the area’s garbage.
Brookhaven rail is a shortline railroad that is licensed by the federal Surface Transportation Board and currently provides common carrier rail services to distribution operations in Brookhaven. The membership interests of the railroad were acquired by Shamrock Rail, a Winters Bros. affiliate, in May of last year.
Current waste management is collect- ed from homes and business unloaded at a waste transfer station at the town’s landfill then loaded on to trucks and hauled to Hempstead, where it is burned in an incinerator then the ash is returned to the landfill for disposal. With the Winters Bros. plan, should a future RFP be awarded or through the collection of private and commercial waste, the new service will collect waste from homes and businesses, load the waste inside the proposed rail transfer facility and load it onto rail cars to be transported of Long Island for proper disposal.
The benefits, Flower pointed to, include traffic reduction with fewer trucks on the roads, cleaner air, job creation and infrastructure development. The site also has a green space preservation plan with about 65 acres.
Should the site be built, the Winters Bros. plans to move operations from their Holtsville site to the Yaphank facility for truck storage and less fleet movement. The site itself will include rail infrastructure with direct access to the interstate rail transportation, a fleet maintenance facility, parking and an administrative building. The plans also include building warehouses on the site to fill a gap in the local economy as part of a separate project.
The site will not handle hazardous waste, radioactive waste or toxic waste; rather, it will handle recyclables, con- struction and demolition debris and municipal solid waste, Flower promised. Winters Bros.
He anticipates the project will result in 60,000 fewer truck trips per year on Long Island and the creation of about 500 construction jobs and 1,400 permanent warehouse jobs.
“The garbage has to go someplace,” Flower said frankly, referencing the over 13 million pounds of garbage produced per day created in Suffolk County and the inevitable closing of the town landfill in 2024. “We don’t know how the town is going to handle the waste, but this will be an option. They will probably go out for a request for proposal to manage their municipal solid waste.”
The Winters Bros. are currently con- tracted to operate the town’s recycling facility. The new proposal is a private endeavor. However, according to a town spokesperson, the town has not entered into any discussion or issued any RFPs for services past the current life of the landfill, which is expected to close towards the end of 2024. The town also does not currently utilize rail services for waste management. The plan for the rail transfer, Flower said, is to find a way to [privately] manage the waste when the landfill closes.
“Society really has to do a better job at reducing waste,” Flower added. “What people don’t realize is the Herculean effort it takes to manage society’s waste every day.”
“The problem doesn’t go away,” he added, hoping to have the facility built and ready to operate by 2024. “Every municipality has to manage their own waste in the most environmentally sound and economically feasible manner.”
The facility, he explained, would only service the general area and would not be utilized by other local municipalities
who already have transfer stations in place, without rail. If not utilized by the town, Flower said, the facility would still be operational to service the area privately and commercially. The Winters Bros. also anticipate continuing operations at the town’s recycling facility with a contract through the next 20 years.
The proposal is currently under review by the Service Transportation Board. Town approvals were granted in 2016 for the development of the land. For more information about the project, visit winterrailterminal.com.
The Town of Brookhaven approved the site for rail supported general development on the site in the L1 industrial zone. The town has also been in ongoing litigation to allow continued oversight over the parcel and others in the area adjacent to the rail.
A settlement was made in 2016 with the understanding that a certain amount of space would be saved as green. Recently, the Town recom- mended the elimination of a previously planned a tunnel underpass, which would displace sand, but rath- er the requested conserved land be slightly reconfigured to allow the rail to operate solely above ground.
The town’s counsel Robert Calica of Rosenberg Calica & Birney wrote a letter to the STB dated June 2 in response to the NAACP’s claims.
“The Town of Brookhaven is justifiably proud of its leading role in protecting the environment. The Town of Brookhaven is justifiably proud of the fairness and transparency of its governance practices, and the unparalleled extent to which the Town conducts its affairs in a public and open manner with the broadest possible participation of all groups,” it reads disputing the claims. “The Town is justifiably proud of its long-standing tradition of fairness and justice for its disadvantaged communities, its leading role in supporting affordable hous- ing, rehabilitation of blighted areas of the Town, its record of support for working and disadvantaged families, and should not be put in the position of apologizing for an unparalleled and respected reputation for good governance.”