Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota announced Tuesday that the ongoing investigation into the hazardous debris illegally dumped in Islip has turned up a second site with “very similar” material found originally at Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood—and there could be more illegal dumps waiting to be discovered within the township.
The contaminated property, which is at the intersection of Rt. 111 and Sage Street in Central Islip, is owned by LC Real Estate Group LLC, a private corporation. At a press conference held at his Hauppauge office, Spota showed photos of the site taken in 2012 and then this month. He pointed out that the piles of construction and demolition rubble found on the site tower between 20 and 30 feet high.
“We believe that the same individuals responsible for the dumping at Roberto Clemente Park are also responsible for the dumping at the Rt. 111 site,” Spota said. He would not identify the site’s owners although he did say his department knows who they are but not where they are. He hopes to track them down soon because “we would like to talk to them.”
Two shingles found at the Sage Street site tested positive with 16 percent asbestos contamination. Spota added that more than 1 percent is considered a health threat. He emphasized that the findings do not mean that 16 percent of the dumped debris is asbestos. Some of the samples taken at the Roberto Clemente Park tested positive with asbestos levels of more than 44 percent. More testing is being conducted at both the park and the Sage Street site by environmental consultants hired by the district attorney’s office as well as by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. The district attorney hopes to have the results available by the end of the month or the beginning of June. The investigation, he stressed, is only in its “infancy stages.”
“It appears that some unscrupulous individuals believe that they can just go into the Town of Islip and dump toxic and hazardous materials without any consequences at all,” Spota said. “I can assure you that at a particular point there will be consequences.”
He refused to speculate what charges he may later file, pending the results of the testing. In the meantime the scope of the investigation has been growing, Spota said, thanks to “sources” who have contacted his office recently.
The district attorney said homeowners in the contaminated area told his investigators that they had contacted the town in the past to complain about the conditions of the Sage Street site “and they heard nothing in return.” But the town did issue a violation to the owner of the property for “an unmaintained fence,” Spota said. “Nothing other than that.”
Asked whether town officials should have been more vigilant, Spota replied, “It’s certainly upsetting to hear that people are claiming that they made particular complaints to the town and heard nothing in return.”
The district attorney added that town officials—“I’m not indicating if they’re elected officials,” he said—remain “part of the investigation as well.”
Spota said that the New York State Health Department has set up a special phone number—518-402-7800 with bilingual staff on hand—for concerned Islip residents who may have health questions that don’t require immediate medical attention.
In the mean time, Roberto Clemente Park is closed, and the Sage Street property is off-limits.
“Our environmental consultants tell us there is no immediate danger right now,” Spota said.
The town has also issued a statement that the air in the park and the surrounding neighborhood “does not present a risk at this time.”