Agreement on Waste Plant Closure

Pio Lombardo of Lombardo Associates reviewed the report he had already delivered to the board

    A consultant’s assertion that East Hampton Town has nothing to gain by fixing and reopening its scavenger waste treatment plant, which has been offline since 2012 and used solely as a transfer station, went unchallenged at a hearing held by the town board last week.

    Few members of the public spoke at the hearing, where Pio Lombardo of Lombardo Associates reviewed the report he had already delivered to the board. His extensive examination of the facility included a look at operating procedures, permit and regulatory issues, the septage waste that is delivered and waste treatment alternatives, and a financial analysis.

    The town could realize $40,000 to $50,000 a month in “easy savings,” by closing the plant, he said last week. There is “little to no value” in keeping it open, he said.

    Most East Hampton septic waste carters are already depositing their loads at other facilities upIsland, he said. Dumping fees do not cover the town’s costs, and keeping the facility open would require the town to subsidize the transfer station to the tune of “at least a half million dollars a year,” Mr. Lombardo said.

    The consultant, and speakers from the audience, suggested that money could be put to better use on water-quality protection initiatives such as, perhaps, providing financial incentives for individual property owners to upgrade below-par septic systems.

    It makes “economic sense” to close the plant and to direct the savings toward other aspects of a comprehensive septic waste management plan, said Dominick Stanzione, a former town councilman, who advocated hiring Mr. Lombardo and the development of such a plan.

    Speaking for Concerned Citizens of Montauk, Jeremy Samuelson, its executive director, also advocated directing funds toward water quality projects.

    About two-thirds of the septic waste being dealt with at the plant, Mr. Lombardo said, is pumped out of failing septic systems. By maintaining the status quo, he said, “the town is, really, encouraging failing septic systems not to be repaired.”

    A look at some examples of restaurants, for instance, that have to have their septic systems routinely pumped, showed that the establishments would make out better, financially, if they took the money spent on pump-outs and used it to upgrade their septics instead.

    “In many areas,” he said, “excessive pumping is considered a health hazard and is illegal.”

    Arthur Malman, the head of the town’s budget and finance advisory committee, agreed with Mr. Lombardo’s analysis. The committee, he said, had told previous town officials in 2008, 2009, and 2010 that the waste plant was in disrepair and not operating properly but the reports, he said, “were just ignored.”

    “To us it makes no sense to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to provide a place where one truck can move waste to another truck,” Mr. Malman said.

    Margaret Turner, the executive director of the East Hampton Business Alliance, urged the board to address the issue of septic waste “comprehensively” and to look into “sewage treatment systems that are appropriate for East Hampton Town.”

    “The need to update failing systems and save our water should trump everything,” she said.

    Mr. Lombardo’s analysis of the plant is just the first part of a more comprehensive study that will include recommendations regarding septic system upgrades and other overall water quality projects, said Supervisor Larry Cantwell.

    Mr. Cantwell said that he would support shutting down the transfer station, though perhaps not until after the summer. If a private company expressed interest in continuing to run the transfer station at no cost to the town, he would consider that option, he said.