Seth D. DuCharme, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Pete D. Lopez, Regional Administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Region 2 (EPA), announced today that the United States filed suit under the Clean Air Act (CAA) against the Town of Brookhaven (the Town) to address its longstanding failure to properly monitor and control noxious landfill gas emissions. The parties agreed to enter into a Consent Judgment, also filed today with the court, which requires the Town to perform injunctive relief that will bring its landfill into compliance with the CAA. Under the agreement, the Town will install and operate systems that reduce and monitor landfill gases, including sulfur dioxide, hydrogen sulfide and methane. The settlement also requires the Town to pay a civil penalty of $249,166.
The lawsuit and Consent Judgment were filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, in Central Islip, New York. Following a 30-day public comment period, the United States will review any comments and, if appropriate, ask the court to enter the Consent Judgment.
“The United States brought this action to ensure that the Town of Brookhaven meets its obligation to protect air quality by properly operating systems that reduce potentially harmful landfill gas emissions. The resolution in this case protects air quality by preventing excess emissions of sulfur dioxide, hydrogen sulfide and methane. This Office will vigorously and faithfully enforce the rule of law to protect our community and our precious natural environment,” stated Acting United States Attorney DuCharme.
“The Town of Brookhaven, EPA and the Department of Justice have worked out an agreement that will ensure that hydrogen sulfide and other landfill gas emissions emanating from the Brookhaven landfill are properly monitored, detected, and controlled,” stated EPA Regional Administrator Lopez. “Putting these safeguards in place is essential to protecting human health and the environment. We look forward to our continued engagement on this issue.”
The CAA was passed by Congress in 1970 to protect public health and the environment through the regulation of air emissions from both stationary and mobile sources. The law requires the EPA to establish national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) and imposes limitations on air pollutant emissions. State and local governments are required to adopt federally enforceable plans to meet these standards.
The Town of Brookhaven, the largest town in Suffolk County, owns and operates the Brookhaven Landfill and the Brookhaven Landfill Gas Recovery Facility. The landfill accepts municipal waste from the Town as well as other municipalities throughout Long Island. Waste is deposited at the Landfill into various Cells, which are equipped with gas collection and control systems (GCCS). Gas generated from Cells 5 and 6 contain high levels of hydrogen sulfide, which is combusted by an enclosed flare and oxidized into sulfur dioxide. The Town also operates a system called the SulfaTreat System, to reduce hydrogen sulfide concentration in the gas upstream of the flare, thereby reducing the sulfur dioxide emissions from the flare.
Since 2005, the Town’s facilities have violated the CAA and its implementing regulations related to landfill air pollutant emissions, as well as the Town’s Title V operating permit for its landfill. For example, the Town failed to: maintain proper temperatures in the landfill (which poses a risk for underground fires); properly monitor surface methane emissions; and continuously operate the SulfaTreat system, which reduces sulfur dioxide emissions from its flare. Some of these violations contributed to excessive sulfur dioxide in the ambient air surrounding the facility. In addition to its foul odor, sulfur dioxide can pose a danger to human, animal and plant health.
The settlement requires the Town to perform injunctive relief to bring its landfill facilities back into compliance with CAA. As such, the Town must maintain and operate the facilities and associated air pollution control equipment in a manner consistent with sound practices for minimizing emissions. Compliance with the CAA will require the Town to: properly operate the GCCS system, continuously operate the SulfaTreat system to reduce hydrogen sulfide concentrations from the landfill gas which will result in lower levels of sulfur dioxide emissions, install and operate a continuous hydrogen sulfide monitoring system, design and install a new taller flare to better disperse emissions, conduct monthly methane surface monitoring, and survey and correct any areas of high temperature in the landfill. The Town has also agreed to install 350 solar panels, expected to generate 129 kilowatts of electricity, as a means to further reduce the Town’s air emissions profile.
The civil negotiations and settlement were handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Diane C. Leonardo and Matthew Silverman, working with Liliana Villatora and Damaris Urdaz, Regional Counsel’s Office, U.S. EPA Region 2, and Gaetano LaVigna, Chief, Stationary Source Compliance Section, Air Compliance Branch, U.S. EPA Region 2.