Robert K. Otto is not the only carter that uses the town scavenger waste facility, company co-owner Lucille Garypie informed. Last Thursday night, the East Hampton Town Board hosted a public hearing on the notion of closing the plant temporarily.
The town's appointed Budget and Finance Advisory Committee's report on the facility asserts the plant is essentially used by just one company, Garypie's, and that 90 percent of the town's carters already bring waste they pump from septic systems upisland. During a subsequent work session on the closure concept, Councilman Dominick Stanzione reported carters he spoke to said they could get by if the option of a local transfer station came off the table.
Not true, said Garypie last week. She was joined at the podium by five of the six local carters, all of whom said the closure of the plant would have a negative impact on their businesses. Some, like Jason Libath of J&J said the closure of the plant could lead to the closure of his business altogether.
Garypie called into question statements made by Stanzione during public discussion of the potential closure. He'd said carters agreed they could "make do" if the plant closed. Garypie introduced four carters he'd never asked.
Most of them said they could not "make do." Local carters, she said, use the plant every day until its capacity is met, offering that she was hurt by the misinformation disseminated about activities at the site. In fact, because the plant, which was downscaled from a processing facility to a transfer station earlier this year, has limited capacity, local carters are routinely turned away because capacity has been reached. That means companies that aren't set up to drive upisland, like Libath's, have to turn away customers, or even keep trucks filled with waste parked at their shops until they can pump out, as John Stafford from McMahon reported. The delay also means turning customers away.
"We do use the plant," said Skip Norsic of Emil Norsic & Son, Inc. If his company is forced to go upisland to Riverhead or Bergen Point, "I see us not being able to satisfy our customers."
Overall, Garypie summarized, only companies that have a lot of big accounts find trips out of town cost effective.
Last year, with an eye towards selling the plant to a private firm, Supervisor Bill Wilkinson crafted an operating budget that did not include funding for running it. The sale did not occure, which left officials grappling to plug a six-figure hole, and come up with the estimated $30,000 per month cost of running the facility.
Some of the carters don't just want to see the plant remain in operation, they'd also like to see it improved to increase capacity. So far, however, it seems town board members are more eager to be shed of the current costs than interested in adding more. Arthur Malman of the budget committee underscored the plant's limited capacity and asked rhetorically whether the cost to run the plant compares to the benefit it provides. "A 10,000 gallon per day facility just doesn't make economic sense," he said. Does it make sense to continue to operate a transfer station that doesn't really fit the needs of the community? he asked.
Then there's the environmental aspect. Bob DeLuca of the Group for the East End, Peconic Baykeeper Kevin McAllister, and Jeremy Samuelson of the Concerned Citizens of Montauk all weighed in on the need for East Hampton Town to conduct a comprehensive waste management study. DeLuca opined it might be time to take the time to look carefully at overall wastewater management. A lot of houses that were built during booms in the 90s and more recently are eventually going to need septic system servicing, he pointed out.
Samuelson described the potential closure as "an off season time out" that would give officials the chance to consider the big picture — not just current needs, but those in 10 or 20 years. McAllister reminded the town needs to deal with the wastewater issues alone. East Hampton can't rely on the state or the county to address the problem because, he said, "They're not doing their job."
Margaret Turner of the East Hampton Business Alliance said her group favors a temporary closure. It would afford the town the time needed to clean up pollution under the plant, plus give relief to neighbors that have been "tortured" by odors emanating from the facility. There's "no question" toxic plumes exist under the plant and the adjacent town landfill, Turner said. Thorough testing of the groundwater must be conducted and a cleanup implemented as part of a comprehensive waste management plan. The first priority must be protecting the groundwater "regardless of the cost involved," she said.