Suffolk DA blasts dumping at Islandia subdivision built for veterans

On June 11, 2014, Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota announced that testing on the Veterans Way housing development in Islandia showed the presence of hazardous or acutely hazardous contaminants. (Credit: Ed Betz)

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Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota Wednesday lashed out at "the person, or persons or entities" who dumped contaminated material at a six-home Islandia development built for returning war veterans -- and said he could not rule out a widening of his criminal probe to more sites.

So far, that probe has revealed at least three Islip sites with toxic waste and investigators await results of sampling from a fourth property -- a wetland area on the Islip-Babylon border where material taken from Roberto Clemente Park in January may have been deposited.

Spota said traces of banned pesticides, heavy metals and petroleum-based products have been found in fill at the Islandia subdivision at levels deemed "hazardous" and "acutely hazardous" under state environment law.

The Long Island Builders Institute said it will fund remediation of the Islandia site, to be overseen by the state Department of Environmental Conservation, in the hope it may recoup costs from those found responsible later.

"We will take all and any protections necessary as soon as we have a remediation plan in hand approved by the state DEC," said LIBI chief executive Mitch Pally.

Those costs will include excavation of about 1,000 cubic yards of fill in the subdivision, as well as accommodating the six families while contaminated debris is removed, Pally said.

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A charitable arm of LIBI, formerly headed by longtime LIBI figure and political fundraiser Tom Datre Sr., built the six-home cul-de-sac last year. Islip Town officials last month said a company owned by Datre's wife, Clara, a former LIBI president, was "a responsible party" in the dumping in the park.

Spota said at his news conference "that men and women who volunteered to put their lives in danger for our safety and to protect us have themselves been put in harm's way, not in Afghanistan or Iraq, but in their own neighborhoods. I find that to be just outrageous."

Asked if there is a concern his office's criminal probe, begun April 8, might grow beyond sites already publicly identified, Spota paused and said, "There is a concern, yes." He declined to elaborate.

Residents expressed worry and uncertainty after learning toxic fill was dumped at the 3.5-acre site, but said for now they must wait to hear from officials. "We just know it's hazardous," Lauren Broyles, one of the six homeowners, said.

The LIBI board of directors met late Wednesday and reaffirmed its "complete commitment to ensuring the families are safe and sound at the houses we built for them," Pally said.

 

Taxpayers on the hook?

But taxpayers could wind up on the hook for some cleanup costs.

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Suffolk County Water Authority chairman James Gaughran said he had directed increased testing of public drinking well fields "potentially impacted" by the dumping sites.

In a letter Gaughran wrote and hand-delivered to Spota, he said the water authority is "particularly concerned" about the location of toxins found at Veterans Way because of its proximity to the authority's Nichols Road South well field.

The water authority will mount more frequent and increased testing for contaminants at its own laboratory, Gaughran said. While no asbestos has been detected at the Islandia site, as it has been at the other sites, ongoing asbestos testing by the authority must be conducted by a specialist outside laboratory.

"We will now likely incur ongoing additional testing costs for decades as a result of this dumping," Gaughran told Newsday Wednesday night. "Worst-case scenario, if a well were to become badly contaminated, and too expensive to treat or too dangerous to use the water, an estimated shutdown and replacement well, including land purchase, could cost around $6 million."

 

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Similar materials

Spota said the contaminated materials found at the Veterans Way property bore a strong resemblance to those found at two Islip Town sites -- Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood and a private vacant lot less than 2 miles away on Islip Avenue in Central Islip.

For the veterans and their families, news of the contamination hit hard.

Broyles, 34, and her husband, Staff Sgt. Jason Broyles, 32, now on active duty, moved to the subdivision seven months ago with their boys, now 7 and 2. The family rented from his parents in North Bellmore before they were selected for their home from about 130 people who served in Iraq or Afghanistan.

"It's upsetting that something that was supposed to be so nice turned into some jerk who put dirty soil on our property," Broyles said.

 

Contaminants the Suffolk district attorney says were found at Veterans Way

 

 

PESTICIDES

 

DDT (DICHLORO-DIPHENYL-TRICHLOROETHANE): Banned in U.S. since 2001. Developed in the 1940s, initially used to combat malaria, typhus, and for insect control in crop and livestock production, homes and gardens. Can travel long distances in the upper atmosphere and can accumulate in fatty tissues.

Health concerns: Classified as a possible human carcinogen; can cause reproductive issues; animal testing showed liver tumor developments.

CHLORDANE: A thick, liquid man-made chemical banned in U.S. since 1988; was used for termite control, pesticide on crops, lawns, gardens and as a fumigating agent.

Health effects: Listed as a pollutant of concern due to its persistence and toxicity to humans and environment.

Short-term: Can cause gastrointestinal distress, neurological symptoms such as headache, dizziness and tremors. Long-term could show effects on the nervous system.

DIELDRIN: Banned in United States in 1987 due to harmful effects on humans, wildlife and fish; a white or tan powder insecticide used to control termites, locusts, mosquitoes and other insects.

Health effects: May cause birth defects, cancer, kidney damage, reproductive success, immune system, may increase infant mortality.

 

METALS

CHROMIUM: A naturally occurring element; can be used for making steel and other alloys. Compounds used for dyes, pigments, leather and wood preservation and toner for copying machines.

Health effects: Inhalation can cause an increase in lung cancer as well as other respiratory problems including shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing.

COBALT: A naturally occurring element; used to make superalloys and in pigment manufacturing.

Health effects: Short-term exposure by inhalation can cause congestion, respiratory irritation, wheezing, asthma and pneumonia.

NICKEL: A naturally occurring element; used in batteries, coins, industrial plumbing, spark plugs.

Health effects: Dermatitis, gastrointestinal distress, neurological effects, lung and nasal cancer and lung and kidney damage.

ZINC: As essential element required as part of a healthy diet; exposure can lead to decreased absorption of copper that could cause gastrointestinal effects.

LEAD: A naturally occurring element; classified as a pollutant. Formally used in leaded gasoline and lead-based paints, ceramics, batteries, pipes and cosmetics.

Health effects: In children: behavior and learning problems, lower IQ and hyperactivity, slowed growth, hearing problems, anemia. In pregnant women: premature birth, reduced growth of fetus. In adults: cardiovascular effects including increased blood pressure and hypertension, decreased kidney function, and reproductive problems.

Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency website, www.epa.gov

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