In June, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC) released a groundwater report for the Long Island Compost/Great Gardens facility in Yaphank, NY, indicating an increased level of contaminants due to vegetative waste.

The waste, which includes composted organic materials like trees and grass, has opened an ongoing investigation into groundwater impacts from these composting facilities on Long Island.

According to the press release from the DEC, “The report found elevated levels of certain contaminants in a residential well and several groundwater monitoring wells down-gradient of the Long Island Compost/Great Gardens facility, indicating that the facility appears to be the primary source of the contamination.”

“The DEC is in discussions with SUNY Stony Brook Waste Reduction and Management Institute concerning the potential for a research project to determine what causes elevated levels of Manganese and other metals in groundwater,” according to DEC Citizen Participation Specialist Aphrodite Montalvo.

Dr. David Tonjes is an Assistant Professor at Stony Brook’s Department of Technology and Society, and is a member of the Long Island Groundwater Research Institute at the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SOMAS).

Dr. Tonjes has conducted research around compost facilities and landfills to investigate the impact that these facilities have on groundwater for many years.

“When you put a big amount of carbon in the system, the organisms that consume the carbon need oxygen in order to do their metabolic processes,” said Dr. Tonjes, explaining how grass clippings and other vegetative compounds could impact groundwater. “So they’ll consume all of the oxygen in the water and make the system anaerobic. When you have anaerobic conditions, you have a different set of chemical reactions that can occur.”

The process doesn’t get any easier when you consider the amount of pesticides and herbicides that people add to their grass clippings.

According to Dr. Tonjes, “It’s a rather complex process. If it were straight forward, the DEC wouldn’t need a bunch of scientists to figure out what was going on.”

Although the DEC and the Long Island Groundwater Research Institute at Stony Brook are in discussions, nothing has been finalized as to who will do the research for the DEC.


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