Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Brookhaven Landfill Leachate Contaminates Beaver Dam Creek

Brookhaven hamlet residents Marty Van Lith and Tom Williams, members of the Beaver Dam Creek Water Quality Working Group, are hoping for plume remediation. ADV/Leuzzi

Some hopeful solutions
More steps taken regarding Beaver Dam Creek plume
Long Island Advance, Patchogue, NY. 4 December 2008, p. 5


It is ironic that this almost ethereal area that is Brookhaven hamlet is wrestling with an unsavory plume that has made its way to the local waters. For one thing, it has its own non-profit preservation organization, the Post- Morrow Foundation Inc. that earnestly purchases open space to help maintain the rural character of the neighborhood. Many of its residents are at the very least conservationists as well as members of such environmental organizations as the Open Space Council. Dennis Puleston, the beloved naturalist, author, founding member of the Environmental Defense Fund which would become the EPA and unofficial guardian of the osprey, whose work helped save their population, came to live here from England after World War II until he died in 2001. His family is still anchored to the neighborhood.

"We never asked for this," said resident Tom Williams, treasurer and vice president of Post-Morrow Foundation Inc. looking at the Beaver Dam Creek, which runs past the foundation's headquarters.

No one did.

Williams is perplexed and so are others of what has transpired. What started as a restoration effort, to monitor the wildlife that had returned to Beaver Dam Creek, resulted in a July 2008 Suffolk County Health Department report stating that ammonia levels for at least two of the samples taken on the creek in 2000 were 500 times greater than the acceptable limit from a leachate plume that emanated from Brookhaven's town landfill. A 2001 draft environmental impact statement prepared for a proposed expansion of Brookhaven's Sanitary Landfill cited the. ammonia samplings were well within the New York State DEC acceptable limits. The math mistake, made via confusion over parameter units, went undetected right through a 2002 Final Environmental Impact Statement for the landfill expansion. SCDHS found the error during research for its study, which began in 2002. The report was released the end of July this year.

This Friday, Dec. 5, the Beaver Dam Creek Water Quality group, including local, state, town and environmental officials, will come together for its third meeting with the town in attempts to work out a solution that will help their water body and ensure the health of their residents. The first meeting gathered on Sept. 26; the second was Oct. 24.

Councilwoman Connie Kepert (4th District) commented that Brookhaven Director of Environmental Protection John Turner had determined there was a possibility of 21 homes with wells along the plume's path that could he affected. "It could be less but we think there is a maximum (number) that should be hooked up," she said. "There may be some homeowners that don't want to be. The town will offer them hookups to SCWA water. It will be free."

Kepert said additional funding had been identified in waste management to address the situation. "We're going to install additional wells to determine the current extent of the plume and determine the impact to Beaver Dam Creek," she said. "We are sinking additional (monitoring) wells and redeveloping existing wells. Some have collapsed and we're dedicating funding for that. We are also looking into pumping remediation," she said.

That was good news to Williams and Marty Van Lith, who have been carrying the gauntlet for their local group along with Mary Jane Cullen and Claire Goad.

"It was kind of the third option after the public safety factor and the monitoring wells," Williams said. "I hope they announce that Friday."
Van Lith said remediation had been on their minds. "There was no indication of that the last time we met," he said. "This is what we wanted all along. That's what we were going to ask for. Hopefully, they'll propose it first. One of the things we're also going to ask for is an unbiased consultant (to work with us with the town)."

But Ed Hubbard, commissioner of Wastewater Management, disputed in an e-mail what Kepert said about pumping remediation.
"There will be no pumping of the plume," he said. "It's simply not feasible to do so and unwarranted at this point. Keep in mind this is not something that just occurred. This was a plume that began almost 30 years ago and has been addressed by the NYS-DEC and the town of Brookhaven. The approved remediation effort by the NYSDEC was to cap the landfill and in doing so it would cut off infiltration of rain into the landfill mass and eventually cut off the now out of the landfill. The key word is eventually. The waste mass is 260 feet high and continues to produce methane gas (which is used to rum turbines to produce electricity), which is an indicator that there is still moisture within the mass and therefore still some small amount of leachate being produced. To completely shut down the internal system will take years, but it will occur, and results from groundwater testing, including the SCDHS report, indicate that the situation is getting better NOT worse.

"The town continues to collect the leachate from the older cells and we have seen decreases in the amount since the capping. Results of groundwater testing just down gradient of the landfill show declining concentrations of leachate, an indication that the capping is effective in reducing the plume and will ultimately cut it off completely. Similar results are seen at Beaver Dam Creek in our surface water sampling as well as in the short sampling survey that SCDHS did for their report. Brookhaven Town has enacted a plan to further delineate the plume, but that will take about a year before we have the data. In the meantime, John Turner is identifying homes that are within the plume boundaries and are still on well water. These homes will be offered the option to get on public water."

Past remediation reported


On Jan. 13, 1983, The Long Island Advance reported on Brookhaven landfill plume solutions. An article written by Jo Ann McGrath stated that the plume had been traveling from the landfill through the groundwater system since 1977. Back then its location was reported as approximately 1,500 feet southeast of the site and about 800 feet from the house and well of a resident near Old Town Road.

Capping of the existing area, which was accomplished, was to be accompanied by stepped-up pumping of leachate, an operation that had been in effect since June 1982. The pumping reduced the seven-foot level of leachate by only a few inches, the article said, even with trucking to Bergen Point of 120,000 gallons weekly.

The volume was said to be reduced further, as the town had agreed that the Yaphank county facilities near the landfill, facilities that contained an undertilized sewage treatment plant, would be used to receive a similar quantity of leachate pumpings, as was transported to Bergen Point.
At the time, a member of the Brookhaven hamlet Liaison Committee, which was working with the town to address the leachate plume, also expressed relief that the town was assuring them public water would be made available.

More on Beaver Dam Creek here.

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