NY OKs Roberto Clemente Park Cleanup Plan

This aerial image of Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood shows how much debris will have to be shipped out of state once its excavated (Town of Islip)

New York State environmental officials have approved the Town of Islip’s cleanup plan for Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood, where six suspects have been accused of illegally dumping 50,000 tons of toxins.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) gave the town approval to begin excavating the material, dispose of it in an authorized landfill, test the remaining soil to ensure there are no more contaminants and create a working group to keep the community informed on the progress of the work, officials said.

“DEC will continue to work closely with the Suffolk County Department of Health Services on the cleanup of Roberto Clemente Park to remove potential environmental and health risks so community residents and visitors will be safe when they use the park,” Peter Scully, the agency’s Long Island regional director, said.

Inez Birbiglia, the deputy town parks commissioner, told the town board during its meeting Tuesday the department expects to put the excavation contract out to bid within the next two weeks and choosing a winning bidder may take up to 45 days, meaning the contract may not come up for town board approval until March. The contract will then be required to submit a work plan and excavation is estimated to take 120 days, she added. If all goes as planned, the excavation could be done by mid-summer.

The state sent the town’s first draft cleanup plan back to Islip leaders for revisions after the DEC determined there needed to be more groundwater monitoring wells to detect any potential impacts on the drinking water supply.

Both the DEC and the town have already installed in the park groundwater monitoring wells for the same reason and air monitoring stations to test if asbestos that was found in the park goes airborne. Screens and fencing will be used to control the dust kicked up during the cleanup, the DEC said. Some of the excavated material will have to be disposed of out of state because it unsuitable for landfills on LI.

Besides the DEC and the county health departments, the state Department of Labor, state Department of Health and Suffolk County Water Authority have all reviewed the plan, officials said.

The former town parks commissioner, his subordinate and four men who owned and worked for a politically connected contracting company all pleaded not guilty last month to environmental crimes for allegedly dumping 1,800 truckloads of construction debris at the park. They’re also accused of their roles in dumping more toxic material at another park in Central Islip, an Islandia veterans housing complex and in Deer Park wetlands.

The cleanup plan is the latest major development in the crisis since the arrests. The New Year also ushered in new faces tasked with overseeing the cleanup. After former Islip Town Supervisor Tom Croci began his new job as a state senator earlier this month, Deputy Supervisor Eric Hofmeister was appointed to replace Croci in a non-voting role on the Republican-controlled town board and deputy town attorney Kerry Sloan was named the new town parks commissioner.

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