Thursday, June 18, 2009

Company Wants to Expand Garbage Facility

Plan Will Increase Truck Traffic in West Maspeth

By Conor Greene

Waste Management is seeking state approval to expand its Long Island City transfer station to handle twice as much garbage each day over its current levels. While the upgrade will allow the company to use trains instead of trucks for long-distance hauling, there is local concern since truck traffic will increase in Maspeth.

The company has applied to the state Department of Environmental Conservation to replace its existing truck-based operation on Review Avenue into a new “rail-based solid waste transfer facility” that would receive residential waste from neighborhoods within Community Boards 1-6 in Queens.

Currently, the trash is brought to the facility and then loaded into tractor-trailers for longdistance hauling to landfills in states such as Virginia. Under the new plan, the trash will be loaded onto rail containers at the Review Avenue facility and trucked several miles over local streets to the rail yard at Maspeth Avenue and Rust Street.

The facility is currently permitted to receive up to 958 tons per day. Under the new arrangement the site will be able to handle up to 2,100 tons per day and will typically receive about 1,150 tons per day, according to the company.

While the project is not subject to the city’s land use review process, the company was required to hold several public information sessions in Sunnyside this past Monday and in Maspeth this past Wednesday. The proposal is part of the city’s Solid Waste Management Plan, which aims to “shift the city’s waste exports from a truck-based system to a rail and barge transportation network, to reduce traffic and vehicle emissions, to ensure each borough is responsible for handling its own waste and to help the city manage its waste in a more sustainable, efficient and cost effective manner.”

However, while the Review Avenue facility is located alongside the Newtown Creek, barges will not be used there, according to the company. Instead, garbage trucks would enter the facility and dump the trash using one of the facility’s five bays. The trash would then be loaded into sealed containers, which are trucked to the rail yard in Maspeth. From there, it would be brought via train to the Fresh Pond Road rail yard in Glendale before it is shipped long-distance to the landfill.

The company boasts that one train containing 15 to 17 cars is the equivalent of between 51 and 58 diesel engine trucks, meaning the project will greatly reduce the amount of mileage driven and emissions produced. Still, there is local concern since the new transfer station will handle garbage from additional communities in Western Queens, since there will be an increase in the amount of trucks bring garbage to the facility, along with the new trips between Review Avenue and the rail yard.

According to a Waste Management spokeswoman, there are currently about 100 city sanitation trucks entering and leaving the facility each day, and about three tractor trailers exiting the facility for long distance hauls. Under the new plan, there will be about 125 DSNY trucks using the facility each day, and an average of four trucks an hour will make the trip to the Maspeth rail yard, replacing the need for long distance hauling.

Gary Giordano, district manager of Community Board 5, said the plan definitely comes at a cost for Maspeth and Long Island City residents. “Unfortunately that’s the price that somebody paid for the greater good, so to speak,” he said. It is certainly going to bring more truck traffic, no doubt about that. “I think what we need to do is work with Waste Management as far as the portions that are somewhat controllable,” he said, referring to issues such as routes and timing.

He also recalled issues last summer with horrific odors emanating from trains hauling garbage in unsealed containers. The trains will go from Maspeth to the Fresh Pond Road yard until they are transported out of the city by CSX. The issue with the odors came when trains were forced to sit idly on tracks near residential areas due to scheduling issues between the disposal company and the railroads.

However, to alleviate these problems, Waste Management has designed a sealed container that company officials say works “pretty well” and is working to improve the timing to prevent trains from sitting in one spot for too long.

Maspeth civic leader Tony Nunziato questioned why the city didn’t demand that Waste Management construct the facility in a location with direct access to train tracks, which would eliminate the need to haul the containers through Maspeth by truck. “I’m all for it, but my main concern is they’re not doing it at one stop,” he said. “If you’re going to make that kind of money, get the facility.”

Robert Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Association, took exception with the public review process and questioned why the company ran the information sessions, instead of the city. “The more questions you ask, the more you find out this thing stinks to high heaven,” he said. “They’re sealed, but they still produce odors,” he noted of the shipping containers. He also pointed out that the company’s Bronx facility is adjacent to tracks.

“Why didn’t Waste Management buy a facility next to the rail?” questioned Holden. “The city should have demanded it – that’s a real solid waste, not a phony one like this. It’s going to cut down on trucks, but not in our neighborhood. It’s going to create more traffic here, and Maspeth doesn’t need it.”

Waste Management hopes to have the new facility constructed in time to begin accepting waste by February 2011.

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