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Brookhaven seeks dismissal of lawsuit against Covanta

Durham-York Energy Centre, located in Clarington, Ontario, is a facility operated by ReWorld, formerly known as Covanta.
Robert T Bell
Durham-York Energy Centre, located in Clarington, Ontario, is a facility operated by ReWorld, formerly known as Covanta.

The Town of Brookhaven is seeking to end its part in a whistleblower lawsuit against a company that burns much of Long Island’s household trash into ash.

Attorney Michael Cahill, who represents the town, said in court papers this weekthat Brookhaven has a right to “intervene to seek settlement approval and dismissal.”

“As the only party with a real and substantial interest in the claims being litigated, whose interests are not being adequately represented … Brookhaven is entitled to intervene,” Cahill wrote.

ReWorld, the company formerly known as Covanta, would pay Brookhaven $1 million to settle the lawsuit.

In 2013, a former Covanta Hempstead employee sued on behalf of municipalities that sent their trash to their incinerator to be burned into ash. The original lawsuit said, “that Covanta made false claims for payment to Brookhaven for its services in accepting and incinerating municipal solid waste.”

The whistleblowers also said the facility sent hazardous ash to the Brookhaven Landfill. A state Department of Environmental Conservation investigation found some of the ash failed to meet environmental standards for several years.

Last October, emails and documents obtained by Newsday found incinerator employees and state regulators were uncertain if the ash was safe for disposal. A spokesperson for then-Covanta told WSHU, “No ash from Covanta facilities has ever been determined to be a hazardous waste.”

The Town of Brookhaven said in court papers the lawsuit “has never been … in the interest of … its residents.”

The company denies any wrongdoing under the agreement.

The whistleblower, Patrick Fahey, told Newsday that the settlement was “paltry.” His lawyer informed the court that the agreement “would not have any effect on … Fahey’s retaliation claim” against his former employer under state law.

“The town of Brookhaven continues to fail the North Bellport and surrounding communities,” said Monique Fitzgerald, co-founder of the Brookhaven Landfill Action and Remediation Group, which advocates for the immediate closure and remediation of the facility.

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.