After a local resident's complaint, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has ordered Southampton Village to stop using a parcel it owns in Tuckahoe for dumping leaves, brush and fallen trees — which the village has been doing a lot of in recent months as storm after storm has struck the East End.
Village Mayor Mark Epley said the DEC told the village to seize using the site for vegetative debris — a practice he says the village has had in place for more than 70 years — and to begin clearing out the debris that is already there. “We’ve got to get in and do a whole cleanup of that area."
After Superstorm Sandy, the village piled the trees and branches that came down in the storm at Downs Family Park, Epley said. Southampton Village Trustee Bill Hattrick took to calling the sizable pile "Mount Epley."
New York State crews came during the end of November and early December to haul away debris from Sandy, Epley said. However, in the nor'easters that followed during the rest of fall and the winter, more trees and branches came down, and the village used its land in Tuckahoe to dispose of them, he said. “We don’t have a certified composting site that is approved by the DEC.”
Epley said the village is now trying to figure out its next move, and is in talks with both Southampton and Brookhaven towns about taking the village's debris. Southampton Town has agreed to accept at its North Sea Recycling Center all of the debris that the village collects during its annual spring cleanup, he said, but storm-related debris is another story.
“Everybody’s so overwhelmed with post-Hurricane Sandy and post-nor'easter debris, no one has the capacity available for additional debris outside of their municipality,” Epley said.
An assistant to Gary Goleski, the Southampton Village superintendent of public works, said that Goleski's only statement is to say that he is "currently working with the DEC, because of the overabundance of debris from Hurricane Sandy."
The site in Tuckahoe is also home to the Southampton Village Police Department's firing range, which came under criticism last year when neighbors complained that gunshots at the range could be heard at the nearby Tuckahoe School, just days after the elementary school massacre in Newtown, Conn. The mayor ordered police to stop using the range on school days. Then in February, the range got a visit from the federal Environmental Protection Agency, after a neighbor complained about lead from bullets, but Police Chief Thomas Cummings said the EPA found no violations.