Editorial: Residents relying on gov't to fix Islip dumping nightmare

A shuttered West Islip pool is being reopened A shuttered West Islip pool is being reopened by town officials to accommodate Brentwood residents as a criminal probe into illegal dumping will keep Roberto Clemente Park, which is pictured here, closed indefinitely. Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

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The news keeps getting worse in the scandal surrounding illegal dumping in the Town of Islip. Another site has been found and more toxic material has been verified, and it becomes ever clearer that someone -- more than one person, most likely -- has a cynical and callous disregard for human health, the environment and the law.

It would have been bad enough had the contaminated fill been dumped at some abandoned industrial site. But consider the locations: a veterans housing development in Islandia, a popular town park in a lower-income neighborhood in Brentwood, a private plot in a residential community in Central Islip, and a wetlands area in Deer Park.

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The dumpers knew people lived and played in most of these areas. The other is environmentally sensitive land that is part of a watershed that feeds the Great South Bay. And Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota says his probe might grow to include still more sites.

The list of contaminants has expanded well beyond asbestos, the initial health concern, and includes some other nasty substances: the banned pesticides DDT and chlordane, petroleum-based products and heavy metals such as cadmium, chromium, cobalt, nickel, lead and arsenic -- some carcinogenic, some capable of causing brain damage.

Residents near the known dump sites understandably are worried about their health and their property values. So far, tests have shown no airborne asbestos and no contamination of drinking water. State Department of Health officials say they do not expect serious long-term health effects -- based on what they know now.

If that remains true, the residents got lucky. But state and county officials must continue to be vigilant monitors and inform residents about what they find. And Islip Town and the builders group that constructed the veterans housing must fulfill their promises of thorough cleanups, no matter how long and expensive they might be.

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