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Environmental officials respond to allegations of improper ash disposal at Brookhaven landfill

A disposal employee places residential garbage into a rear loading trash truck.
Rogelio V. Solis
A disposal employee places residential garbage into a rear loading trash truck.

New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation will continue to investigate Covanta over allegations of improper ash mixing and disposal at Brookhaven landfill.

Covanta operates waste-to-energy facilities in Hempstead and Babylon. Much of the ash produced there is sent to the landfill in Yaphank.

Documents obtained by Newsday suggest the company struggled to meet the state’s nonhazardous waste requirements for “bottom” and “fly” ash between 2006 and 2014. The fly ash specifically can pollute the air and groundwater with chemicals and heavy metals.

In addition, the state monitor omitted negative information on inspection reports at the incinerator, according to documents obtained by Newsday.

Covanta denies all wrongdoing, saying that its ash has never been proven hazardous. Covanta Hempstead and Covanta headquarters in Morristown, N.J., did not respond to requests for comment on Thursday.

As part of its Trash Talkin’ series, WSHU spoke with Covanta Hempstead Area Asset Manager Dawn Harmon in March, echoing “no ash from Covanta facilities has ever been determined to be a hazardous waste.”

In a statement Friday, DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said they’re taking the information seriously, and will take action to address any violations.

The DEC is already investigating Covanta over a whistleblower lawsuit. It accuses the company of mixing toxic waste into the ash.

Environmental advocates and community members have been calling for the closure of Brookhaven landfill for years.

Sara McGiff is a news intern at WSHU for the fall of 2023.
A native Long Islander, J.D. is WSHU's managing editor. He also hosts the climate podcast Higher Ground. J.D. reports for public radio stations across the Northeast, is a journalism educator and proud SPJ member.
Sabrina is host and producer of WSHU’s daily podcast After All Things. She also produces the climate podcast Higher Ground and other long-form news and music programs at the station. Sabrina spent two years as a WSHU fellow, working as a reporter and assisting with production of The Full Story.