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Commercial waste hauler: License me, license everyone

REPORTER FILE PHOTO | The Town Board continued its discussion on licensing commercial waste haulers.
REPORTER FILE PHOTO | The Town Board continued its discussion on licensing commercial waste haulers.

Everyone who is paid for a job hauling away waste material — even one person in a pickup truck who occasionally takes away trash — should be under the same regulations as large hauling companies.

That’s the opinion of Jon DiVello, owner of Shelter Island Environmental Services (SIES), who attended the Town Board work session Tuesday and joined its discussion on licensing commercial haulers.

Councilmen Paul Shepherd and Ed Brown strongly disagreed that an individual who works part time removing waste should be subjected to the same regulations as multi-million dollar businesses operating regionally rather than locally.

The debate was sparked by the town’s consideration of a local law to license commercial waste haulers. Licensing would set an enforcement mechanism for commercial carters that violate town regulations, such as mixing recyclable materials with so-called “wet garbage,” or municipal sold waste (MSW) and recyclables. This is a violation of a state statute that all municipalities are required to separate recyclables from garbage.

Also, issuing permits to carters would give the town vital information on exactly how much material the commercial carters are hauling off-Island, which is crucial for future planning.

Currently there are two commercial haulers serving the Island, Dan’s Carting & Recycling and Mr. DiVello’s SIES, which is licensed in several East End towns and Brookhaven.

The discussion Tuesday began by Town Attorney Laury Dowd reading draft language that would define commercial waste haulers. The definition would read: “A person or company who transports recyclable or nonrecyclable household waste within the town of Shelter Island for compensation.”

Not included would be construction and demolition debris, and several other classifications of waste.

Mr. DiVello took exception to not including the construction debris. “If you’re defining commercial waste hauling you should include debris from construction sites and houses,” he said. “You should be permitted to do both.”

Asked about the permitting policies of other towns, Mr. DiVello said every truck and driver operating in the town has to be registered and stickers are placed on the vehicles so police can immediately see they are licensed. Also, the company must meet all insurance requirements of the town.

Usually the licensing fee is done by how many trucks are operating.

Mr. Shepherd said he was worried that someone working on their own cleaning up a construction site, for example, would be required to go through a lengthy bureaucratic process.

Mr. Brown wondered what was next: “A guy raking leaves?”

Mr. DiVello said if his company has to play by certain rules than everyone should. And as for costs, there was an economy of scale involved; a licensing fee for one truck as opposed to 10 trucks for a large operation and insurance rates for one pick up as opposed to rates for a fleet of large trucks.

Ms. Dowd returned to one of the purposes of licensing: to get data on how much material is being taken off the Island and where it’s dumped. Mr. DiVello countered by saying that haulers have to report every pound they take away and dump to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. “That’s easily obtainable information to get,” Mr. DiVello said.

“That’s what a permit does,” Ms. Dowd said.

Mr. Shepherd said he could “appreciate your desire for that information, but what kind of wringer I’m willing to put everyone through to get that information is limited.”

The discussion evolved into an extended pitch for town business by Mr. Divello, whose company is building a recycling center in Cutchogue.

Highway Superintendent Jay Card Jr., who didn’t attend the meeting, but was aware of it, said the goal of licensing haulers should be met. “I’d rather have the ability to have some control over you to make sure you’re doing what you say you’re doing,” Mr. Card said.

In other business: Two weeks ago Town Engineer John Cronin reported on a conference he attended on septic systems and cesspools, telling the board that the situation on the Island was getting worse and would require “radical changes.”

The first step to change the situation is to develop some current data, Mr. Cronin advised, which could start by looking into Building Department files on the age and maintenance records of septic systems. Then meaningful discussions have to take place.

But Building Inspector J. Chris Tehan questioned the board on what exactly they were looking for and if found, what should be done with the information. He also mentioned several times that looking through thousands of files is a nearly impossible task.

There is also the problem that prior to 1978, there is no information on septic systems.

There was a question asking what value the information would yield. Ms. Dowd noted that other towns have given grants to homeowners to upgrade their systems to cut nitrogen and phosphorus leaching into ground water, so information on the age and configuration of systems is important.

As  for the job of going through files, Mr. Shepherd suggested Building Departmetn employees could pull two or three files “at odd moments on any given day,” adding there were 250 work days annually.

Mr. Tehan said that “a lot of days you don’t get any work done over there,” mentioning constant telephone calls and people requesting information.” He also returned to the question of where the information would go once found.

Mr. Shepherd said it could be written on a hard copy, and Ms. Dowd said it could be stored either on a computer-spread sheet or in a geographic information system.

Mr. Shepherd asked if there was any sense of urgency.

“There’s no sense of urgency,” Ms. Dowd said, adding, “if you don’t get started now you’ll never get started.’