Islip takes steps to recover costs associated with alleged illegal dumping in town park

A detective who identified himself as being with A detective who identified himself as being with the Suffolk County district attorney's office, photographed the dumping ground at the Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood on May 7, 2014. Photo Credit: James Carbone

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The Town of Islip is preparing lawsuits to recoup money from contractors who may be criminally charged by the Suffolk County district attorney for illegally dumping asbestos-filled debris inside Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood, officials said Wednesday.

Councilman Anthony Senft also said the town will seek civil restraining orders against any companies involved in the dumping to stop them from liquidating assets.

"We want to prevent any of these people that are responsible for this criminal conduct from corporate protection by selling off assets of their corporations," Senft said. "So that when we come after them and get judgments in the favor of Town of Islip, they [can't say they] have no assets."

An estimated 32,000 tons of debris -- some of which contained asbestos concentrations as high as 44 percent - were dumped in the park by at least one "unscrupulous contractor," according to Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota. He referred to the dumping as an "environmental nightmare." Experts have estimated cleanup costs could reach well into seven figures.

Islip's town attorney, Robert Cicale, is awaiting the completion of the DA's investigation to determine whom to sue and whether to file in federal court or State Supreme Court, depending on what substances were found in the debris and where it came from to determine jurisdiction.

"We can draft all this documentation then leave a blank for the particular person who is culpable," Senft said. "As soon as we get the information from the district attorney, we can plug in the name and file."

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Islip's legal maneuvers come as inspectors from Enviroscience Consultants -- a firm hired by the DA to conduct soil testing -- were seen at the 27.9-acre park yesterday taking samples.

About one year ago, a church a mile north of the park, Iglesia de Jesucristo Palabra Miel, asked the town for permission to fix holes in soccer fields, according to Spota. When the church ran out of its own resources it asked for donations of clean soil, which prompted so far unidentified contractors to begin dumping the illegal fill as early as June. The debris came from New York City and Long Island, prosecutors said.

The park has been closed since April 23. The now indefinite closure of the park has stopped a $1.5 million swimming pool rehabilitation project at the park, which was set to open next month. Full analysis of the site may take until early next month to complete.

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Spota made it clear at a Tuesday news conference that his investigators are also working to determine who, if anyone, in the Islip Town government knew about the illegal dumping at the time it was happening. Senft, the council's liason to the parks department, has said that the debris was "placed illegally without the permission" of the town and that the contractors who worked on the project were hired by the church. Spota also made it clear he believed the church was blameless.

According to Cicale, the town sent notices on April 24 to four insurance companies of contractors who filed paperwork with the town to do work at the park. Neither Senft nor Cicale would reveal the contractors that had filed the paperwork, citing the ongoing criminal investigation.

The letters were accompanied by photos of the dump site as well as field reports, Cicale said. They were sent three days after the DA subpoenaed the town for records pertaining to construction projects at the park going back to June.

Investigators were also seen Tuesday taking photographs of heavy construction equipment and trucks at the Ronkonkoma corporate offices of "Datre/Daytree," which Spota said was related to the dumping investigation. Reached Wednesday night, Tom Datre, owner of the company based at the address searched Tuesday, declined to comment.

In January, mounds of soil filled with rebar were cleared by the town from the park after complaints were lodged by area residents. Officials have said the state Department of Environmental Conservation was notified at that time, although no tickets were issued, the DEC said.

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On Tuesday, the town forced its parks commissioner, Joseph Montuori, to resign amid the probe. The town is still conducting its own internal investigation, Cicale said.

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