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Suffolk County Democrats center environmental justice ahead of Election Day

Suffolk County Legislature Minority Leader Jason Richburg (D-Wyndanch) is running for reelection.
Sara McGiff
/
WSHU
Suffolk County Legislature Minority Leader Jason Richburg (D-Wyndanch) is running for reelection.

With early voting starting next week, Suffolk County’s Democratic hopefuls are centering their campaigns around environmental justice by seizing on the controversy surrounding the Brookhaven Landfill.

Suffolk County Legislature Minority Leader Jason Richberg (D-Wyandanch), who is running for reelection, and other Democratic candidates, renewed calls for an independent investigation into Brookhaven Landfill vendor Covanta.

The vendor has come under fire after a Newsday series exposed emails from Covanta employees who were uncertain if their ash disposal was nonhazardous. It also questioned the actions of Brookhaven Town officials that allegedly sided with the company in an ongoing whistleblower lawsuit that accused Covanta of dumping toxic waste into the landfill.

“We need to make sure that the folks who put this stuff into our water, that made sure this would not come into the mainstream, that made sure this was not an issue for them in any type of way, are held accountable,” Richberg said.

Covanta operates waste-to-energy facilities in Hempstead and Babylon, where household waste from seven Long Island municipalities is incinerated and the power generated is sold to the Long Island Power Authority. Much of the ash that is produced is sent to the landfill in Yaphank.

Dave Calone, a Democrat, is running for Suffolk County executive against Republican Ed Romaine, the Brookhaven Town supervisor.
Sara McGiff
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WSHU
Ezekiel Torres is environmental justice activist and resident from nearby Shirley.

Covanta Hempstead, nor their New Jersey parent company, has responded to requests for comment.

“We cannot push it down the road for generations. It is time now for us to begin the processes of restoration work and reinvesting in our communities. We are in need of new leadership,” said Ezekiel Torres, a resident of Shirely.

At the rally outside the facility, county executive candidate Dave Calone accused his Republican opponent Ed Romaine of possibly abusing his power as Brookhaven town supervisor based on a2019 email obtained by Newsday.

The email, between a Brookhaven lawyer and Covanta, brainstormed on a legal strategy for the ongoing whistleblower lawsuit that would give Romaine “the best possible outcome” against his opponents who would “use the allegations in the complaint as a campaign issue.”

Ezekiel Torres is environmental justice activist and resident from nearby Shirley.
Sara McGiff
/
WSHU
Dave Calone, a Democrat, is running for Suffolk County executive against Republican Ed Romaine, the Brookhaven Town supervisor.

“Ed Romaine has been mismanaging this place for over a decade. He’s ignored the cries of the community,” Calone said. “Leadership means solving problems, not ignoring them, not sweeping them under the rug.”

The Romaine campaign did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday. During a debate hosted by Newsday on Oct. 11, he said he welcomed a state investigation into Covanta.

Richberg said he wanted answers from the Town of Brookhaven so protections can be put in place for residents.

“We’re here because we have some questions and want answers,” Richberg said, “We’re also here because we need the right people, in the right spots, at the right time to make sure those questions are asked, answered and our communities are protected.”

Legis. Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst), the presiding officer of the Suffolk County Legislature, did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.

Sara McGiff is a news intern at WSHU for the fall of 2023.