Here’s how a garbage depot works

It stinks!: Mel Gagliano of the Marine Basin Marina says the city’s planned waste transfer site for this location will be a disaster for Gravesend Bay.
Photo by Derrick Lytle

The city’s controversial plan to install a waste transfer station at the foot of Bay 41st Street in Bath Beach has left one question on Brooklynites’ minds — what the heck is a waste transfer station?

Some residents and candidates for office have been enraged by the proposal to put a trash shipping terminal on Gravesend Bay, arguing that the station’s construction will stir up dangerous chemicals left in the water by the incinerator that formerly occupied the location, but the proposal also provokes something curiosity.

And that is what we are here for.

The Department of Sanitation’s plan would bring garbage-carrying, “low-smoke diesel fuel” trucks down Bay Parkway to a nine-story, 200-feet-long, 200-feet-wide building(about half the size of a city block in midtown Manhattan) that will be depressurized to help keep smells from escaping.

Each day up to 2,106 tons of household garbage from the surrounding area — the weight of about 525 full-grown elephants — will be brought into the building, where trucks will ride up to an elevated “tipping floor.” The vehicles will then pour their burdens onto a slightly lower “loading floor,” where a plow will push the trash into shipping containers atop wheeled cars at ground level.

A tamping device will compact the trash and another machine will press airtight lids onto the bins. The containers will be wheeled outdoors, where a crane will load them onto barges on the bay. The barges will carry the trash to an as-yet undecided landfill, which the Department of Sanitation will only say is not in the traditional garbage burial grounds of Staten Island or New Jersey.

“The department is still in negotiations to select a waste hauling vendor for a final disposal site,” said city spokeswoman Kathy Dawkins.

But that’s not all.

To protect the Marine Basin Marina, which will sit right next to the station site, and to prevent tug boats from straying too far from the facility, the city will install a wall-in-the-water that it says will resemble a picket fence — only it will be the length of a football field, and made of steel pilings and rubber bumpers.

To accommodate the barges, the city will have to scoop the silt from the water floor 20 feet deep and 300 feet out — which plan opponents argue will release buried toxins that the old trash incinerator left behind. Some have even suggested the dredging could set off old unexploded anti-aircraft shells left after a military transport ship capsized there in 1954. But the state Department of Environmental Conservation dismissed such concerns because of the lack of evidence, and approved the city’s plan last year.

“No substantive and significant issue has been raised,” state commissioner Joseph Martens said.

The garbage depot won’t be the only one in Brooklyn. The city is nearing completion of a similar facility on Hamilton Avenue near the Gowanus Canal, which will handle the Downtown area’s trash.

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at wbredderman@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow him at twitter.com/WillBredderman.

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