Waiting on Waste: Concerns Rise Over Brentwood’s Incoming Recycling Facility

Janice Aragon

A community largely composed of low-income and minority individuals, the resilient town of Brentwood faces its latest challenge in an upcoming recycling company’s plans for expansion. Omni Recycling, a waste processing company with locations in Babylon and Old Westbury, is seeking to build a solid waste facility on 80 Emjay Boulevard.

There has been a demonstrated need for waste solutions on the island, as the Brookhaven Landfill, the destination for much of LI’s trash, is set to close in the winter of 2024. 

“It doesn’t surprise me that Brentwood is the site that they’ve chosen,” said Mr. Rooney, AP Government teacher at Brentwood High School. “The benefits (for the company, not for anyone else) is that the site is close to RR lines, [and] the land is cheaper than other places…”

In spite of these obvious benefits, there could be a motivation past necessity in Omni’s recent proposal. 

“The NIMBY movement (Not In My Backyard) is really strong in more affluent areas, but often times not as much in a community such as Brentwood (somewhat transient, immigrant, working-class population),” said Mr. Rooney said.

According to the most recent census, over 60% of Brentwood residents are Hispanic, and more are part of other ethnic minority groups.  

“It feels like they’re targeting us,” senior Manuella Meneses said. “There are lots of larger communities out east that could better handle the traffic of a place like this.”

Brentwood locals are all-too familiar with the impact of a waste facility like this on the community, as the proposed location rests on the site of a previous waste facility. This site, owned by a different company, burned down in 2013.

While open, the previous facility caused major disturbances throughout the town. Complaints included high traffic volumes, unpleasant fumes, and an overall deteriorated quality of life.

Planning to process over 2,300 tons of waste a day, Omni’s proposed facility would process construction and demolition debris. A solid waste facility, by definition, may also process everything from garbage to wastewater sludge, as well as waste from mining and construction operations.

Manny Rodriguez, a current Omni Employee, emphasized the recycling aspect of his job. When asked about the conditions he observed, he said that his facility tries its best to limit disturbances to the community, but the amount of noise and the smell can vary by day.  

Some locals, however, remain distrustful in large part due to a history of waste abuse in the town. In 2014, Brentwood’s Roberto Clemente Park suffered nearly three years of closure due to an illegal dumping of construction waste by 8 different companies.

The construction waste included toxic waste, such as asbestos and pesticides, dumped in the presence of residents, including children and teens playing in the park. While a lawsuit delivered over $600,000 to the Town of Islip for damages, many residents still face concerns over the long-lasting health issues that might present themselves due to the exposure.

The facility could also bring unwanted effects to other communities. The building of the Brentwood facility would add 1,000 trash-filled train cars in circulation. The smell and noise that comes as a result of trains like these has been something that residents in places like Glendale, Middle Village, and Ridgewood have faced for years. Omni’s plans would only worsen the problem.

“What I want to know is if not in Brentwood, where else would we put the waste?” Kevin Durand said. “What we really need is a more sustainable way of living.” 

Currently, construction for the new Omni site is still awaiting approval. To learn more about the specifics of the proposal, a copy of it is available on the New York Department of Environmental Conservation’s website.