In 2021, Winters Bros. closed on over 200 acres of land neighboring the current Brookhaven Town landfill in Yaphank, just south of Horseblock Road. The purchase of the property, according to Will …
In 2021, Winters Bros. closed on over 200 acres of land neighboring the current Brookhaven Town landfill in Yaphank, just south of Horseblock Road. The purchase of the property, according to Will Flower, senior vice president, will allow Brookhaven Rail—which will eventually operate under Shamrock Rail—to create a rail terminal facility to haul out the area’s garbage.
Brookhaven Rail is a short-line railroad that is licensed by the federal Surface Transportation Board and currently provides common carrier rail services to distribution operations in Brookhaven. The membership interests of the railroad were acquired by Shamrock Rail, a Winters Bros. affiliate, in May of 2020.
Current waste management is collected from homes and business and unloaded at a waste transfer station at the town’s landfill, then loaded onto trucks and hauled to Hempstead, where it is burned in an incinerator; then, the ash is returned to the landfill for disposal. With the Winters Bros. plan, should a future RFP be awarded or through the collection of private and commercial waste, the new service will collect waste from homes and businesses, load the waste inside the proposed rail-transfer facility and load it onto rail cars to be transported off Long Island for proper disposal.
The Town of Brookhaven approved the site for rail-supported general development in the L1 industrial zone. The town has also been in ongoing litigation to allow continued oversight over the parcel and others in the area adjacent to the rail.
A settlement was made in 2016 with the understanding that a certain amount of space would be saved as green. In 2021, the town recommended the elimination of a previously planned tunnel underpass, which would displace sand, and instead requested conserved land be slightly reconfigured to allow the rail to operate solely above ground.
The overall project, according to Flower, is still in the development phase. According to Brookhaven Town, no application has been submitted for the solid-waste rail-transfer facility. When an application is submitted, Flower said, it would be announced.
Brookhaven Rail is regulated by the Surface Transportation Board. The planned Rail Terminal will be governed by a combination of state and federal laws and a 2016 court-approved settlement agreement, which occurred prior to Winters Bros.’ involvement of the project.
The construction of all railroad track on the site is subject to the approval and regulation of the STB, including its environmental review process under the National Environmental Policy Act. In addition, the siting, construction, and operation of the solid-waste rail-transfer facility is subject to a combination of STB jurisdiction, the laws and regulations of the State of New York, and the laws and ordinances of the Town of Brookhaven. Roadway, transportation, and sewer issues will be reviewed and regulated by Suffolk County.
According to the STB, Brookhaven Rail requested an exemption that was denied in 2020. According to a Surface Transportation Board spokesperson, Brookhaven Rail LLC (Brookhaven Rail), a Class III rail carrier, has filed two petitions for exemption in furtherance of a planned solid-waste rail-transfer facility, which would be owned by Brookhaven Rail and for which Brookhaven Rail intends to provide rail service.
Also, in 2021, after Citizens Campaign for the Environment submitted a claim of a potential conflict of interests with a third-party contractor for the environmental review, the acting director of the Surface Transportation Board’s Office of Environmental Analysis (OEA) issued a letter concluding that there was no basis for the Citizens Campaign for the Environment’s allegation.
The decision, according to Flower, was related to the Citizens Campaign for the Environment petition, which sought to stop the project. However, the STB ruled in favor of the railroad, requesting additional information to continue the process. Once the project is approved by the STB, Flower said, an application for the buildings will be submitted to the town, as well as other requirements with the county and state. Once approved, he said, the project should take about a year to complete.
“We need to all work together,” he said of solving society’s waste problem, also noting the importance of recycling.
Winters Bros. also plans to continue to operate Brookhaven Town recycling facility while searching for better markets to sell the recycled materials. Currently, there are three operational rail projects on Long Island, including Brentwood, Farmingdale and Lindenhurst. Additionally, there are two other open rail projects in the works on Long Island, including Gershow in Medford and another in Kings Park. All three are looking to move trash by rail.