Cleanup of Toxic Landfill Undermined by Politics

Why would anyone oppose the capping of a toxic landfill and the protection of our drinking water? The answer is simply – politics. In 2016, the Suffolk County Landbank approved the winning bid from a team of local residents to cap the toxic 25-acre Steck-Philbin landfill in Kings Park. The winning bidders were philanthropist Charles Reichert, Power Crush owner Toby Carlson and former Kings Park Civic President Mike Rosato. This project would have helped prevent the landfill’s contaminants from reaching our groundwater and would have put the Old Northport Road property back on the tax rolls. The work should have been completed a year ago, but former Smithtown Town Planner David Flynn and Suffolk County Executive Bellone opted to undermine the project for personal and political reasons.

Mr. Flynn opposed the proposal because he objected to the vegetation being removed from the site. He shockingly chose to protect the site’s surface appearance over the 80 feet of construction and demolition debris contaminating the area’s soil and groundwater. He recruited local civic leaders who then pressured former Smithtown Supervisor Vecchio and County Executive Bellone to oppose the project in exchange for their political support. The Supervisor, who was ill and desperate to win re-election, then asked Mr. Flynn to pen an opposition letter, which falsely claimed the winning team intended to mine the waste from the site and that the toxic landfill was “not creating any adverse impacts.”

The Suffolk County Landbank, whose mission includes facilitating the remediation of contaminated sites, awarded the winning bid based on several factors, not just the end use. However, even after the winning bidders agreed to covenants that limited end uses to those acceptable to the community and permitted by the town, the Landbank still refused to sign their contract do to lobbying efforts from misguided civic leaders.

Two years after the winning bid was accepted, it became apparent that politics was dictating policy and that the County Executive was instructing his staff to kill the project for political purposes. The Landbank continues to waste taxpayers’ money ($330,000 to date), and has still failed to address the toxic contamination on the site, including: 4VOCs, 10 SVOCs, 8 metals, 4 pesticides and PCBs in the soil and several PFA’s in the groundwater. Shamefully, the potential causes of cancer and heartache were ignored by the people who were elected to protect us, putting all of our residents’ welfare at risk.

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