This letter, by Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, concerns a composting site at the northern boundary of Brookhaven Hamlet in the Hamlet of Yaphank. In addition to the relatively low level alpha radiation found near the site, there are many citizen complaints of strong odors and dust. At the June 2, 2011 community meeting (see BLOG, Stop the Sludge Community Meeting), there was considerable "buck passing" between Brookhaven Town, Suffolk County, and New York State agencies as to who, if any, had jurisdiction or regulatory authority over the facility.
See related story: Residents raise stink about mulch plant, Long Island Advance, 23 Jun 2011, p. 5. This particular plant is in nearby Medford, but is producing similar complaints of odors.
New York State Health Commissioner
Nirav R. Shah, M.D., M.P.H.
New York State Department of Health Corning Tower Empire State Plaza Albany, NY 12237
June 20, 2011
RE: Horseblock Road Investigation, Yaphank, Suffolk County, New York
Dear NYS Health Commissioner Shah,
I am writing in regard to the above named investigation concerning contamination of unexplained radionuclides in groundwater, surface water and compost samples found on and south of Long Island Compost/Great Gardens located in Yaphank, Long Island.
Citizens Campaign for the Environment (CCE) is gravely concerned that compost from this facility is continuing to be distributed to farms and the general public across Long Island while under investigation for radionuclide contamination.
Data from groundwater samples immediately south of this facility contained gross alpha concentrations of up to 58.4 picocuries per liter. This contamination was found at shallow depths (20 – 25 feet) and therefore could only be attributed to a very close source. Samples of compost at Long Island Compost/Great Gardens were taken in the northwest and the southeast quadrants of this facility, both samples contained unexplained levels of gross alpha and gross beta radiation. Since alpha and beta radiation was found in the compost materials and surface water samples at the Long Island Compost/Great Gardens facility, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Suffolk County Department of Health Services (SCDOHS) both agree this facility is the source of the radioactivity in groundwater.
A second round of sampling is underway and is anticipated to be completed in the next two weeks. Samples will be analyzed by both the NYS DOH and SCDOH. Results are expected in approximately six weeks. I am certainly aware that the additional testing will provide useful information in allowing us to address this concern with greater certainty however, greater clarity is currently needed for public inquiries. CCE is receiving calls and emails from members of the public asking if compost purchased from Long Island Compost/Great Gardens, is safe. They are specifically asking if the radiation can concentrate in their homegrown fruits and vegetables. Given the logical concern that a compost transfer facility should not be producing alpha and beta radiation, and that an investigation is underway, I find this a legitimate question. It would be very helpful for NYSDOH to provide a statement addressing these public concerns and clarifying why no caution has been issued concerning the distribution and use of the compost materials. Therefore, I am respectfully requesting a statement from your office that can provide the needed guidance to the public on this important matter.
I was present at a meeting on May 26, 2011 at the DEC’s Stony Brook office where representatives of the NYSDOH participated via phone. They informed the meeting participants that radioactive levels in the compost materials were relatively low and the public should not be concerned. They also suggested the cause could be "natural". I am currently unaware of any natural process where alpha radiation may result from the degradation process of leaves and grass. It appears too early in the investigation to offer such an explanation as to the origins of the radiation.
If you have any questions regarding this request please do not hesitate to contact me at 516-390-7150.
Senator Charles Schumer
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand
Congressman Tim Bishop
NY State Senator Lee Zeldin
NYS Assemblyman Dean Murray
NYS Assemblyman Robert Sweeney
DEC Commissioner Joe Martens
DEC Region One Director, Peter Scully
Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy
Suffolk County Legislator Kate Browning
Suffolk County Health Commissioner Dr. James L. Tomarken