New tests confirm carcinogens were illegally dumped at Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood and a second site in Central Islip while results are pending for another three dump sites, Suffolk County prosecutors said.
After earlier tests showed the presence of cancer-causing asbestos at the two sites, the latest results confirmed that 50,000 tons of material dumped at the Brentwood park also contained DDT and Diedrin—probable and potential cancer-causing banned pesticides, respectively. The new results also found Lead, Chromium, Copper, Zinc and Cobalt, which is termed an acutely hazardous substance. Rubble dumped at the privately owned site at the corner of Route 111 and Sage Street contained metals and pesticides as well.
“Children and adults who used the park…they may have been placed at risk,” Suffolk District Attorney Tom Spota told reporters during a news conference Thursday at his Hauppauge office. He later cautioned: “I don’t want to be an alarmist.”
Three others sites in the Town of Islip also being investigated for alleged illegal toxic dumping include: Six homes on Veterans Way in Islandia, a Police Athletic League (PAL) ball field on Clayton Street in Central Islip and wetlands near Brook Avenue in Deer Park. Asbestos was confirmed at the PAL field but not found at the Islandia veterans housing. The test results for other contaminants at the Islandia and Deer Park sites are due next week.
“We have received indication that there may have been dumping at other locations,” Spota added, noting that additional testing will likely be required to see if the pollutants leached into the underground drinking water reserves. “We are progressing, but it is a large-scale investigation.”
He said that the alleged illegal dumping began last spring at Roberto Clemente Park, formerly known as Timberline Park. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation first responded to a complaint there in January and contacted the town, which told the agency that “the material was placed by mistake and had been removed,” a DEC spokesman said in a statement. The DEC responded to a second complaint there in March, when it launched the continuing joint investigation with Spota’s office.
Islip town officials closed the park indefinitely on May 5. Three days later, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone declared a State of Emergency that enables the county to investigate and assess the extent of the contaminants found at the park. New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said after visiting the park last week that his office is also investigating the alleged toxic dumping.
“It is clear that this was not some sort of one-shot deal, that we’re looking at something much more systemic,” Schneiderman said. “They’re not gonna get away with this.”
Islip town officials have launched an internal investigation and hired Ronkonkoma-based Enviroscience Consultants, which they said determined that asbestos found at the park is not air-borne. Spota has said that in the year prior to the closure, park-goers could have been exposed to the carcinogen through skin contact or accidental ingestion. Since the illegal dumping came to light, the town also fired its parks commissioner, terminated a contract with a tree-trimming company suspected of involvement and is preparing to sue for the estimated multi-million dollar clean-up costs.
The scandal erupted as Conservative Islip Town Councilman Anthony Senft, the town board’s liaison to the parks department, launched his New York State Senate campaign on the Republican line.
“As a former prosecutor I am outraged,” he said on his campaign website. “If the dumpers thought they could get away with this because Brentwood is a multi-ethnic community, they were dead wrong.”
Andrienne Esposito, the executive director of the Farmingdale-based nonprofit Citizens Campaign for the Environment who is the Democratic hopeful running against Senft, called the case a travesty.
“Those who dumped the asbestos should go to jail,” she said on her Facebook page. “Those who watched and did nothing should be forced out of government. Children and families who played in the park should be immediately tested.”