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Joye Brown: New illegal dumping scandal may haunt Suffolk

A portion of West Hills County Park has

A portion of West Hills County Park has been sealed and is being treated as an "active crime scene" after Suffolk County officials began an investigation into possible illegal dumping at the park, officials said Friday, Aug. 26, 2016.

Wait, what?

Could Long Island have another dumping scandal on its hands?

As it is, construction debris — some of it larded with toxic chemicals — has been found at a community park in Brentwood.

And at a six-home development — for veterans! — in Islandia.

And at an area of state-protected wetlands in Deer Park.

And at a one-acre vacant lot in Central Islip.

All of the above were part of a case brought by Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota that this year led to several convictions, including those of two Islip Town officials.

And now, it appears that Long Island could have another construction-debris site.

This time, it’s at another recreation area, West Hills County Park in Melville, which is off Sweet Hollow Road on a curvy byway that started as a single-lane dirt road.

The area has a history that’s drawn generations of thrill seekers — and at least one ghost hunter that I’m aware of.

There’s the story of teens who jumped, or otherwise decided to dispatch themselves, from the Northern State Parkway overpass along Sweet Hollow. Honk a car horn, or blink the lights three times the story goes, and ghosts might show up in the rear view mirror. Then there’s the tale of a woman whose spirit lingers nearby.

There’s a cemetery along Sweet Hollow. And an entrance to the county park. And, a tad further north, a riding center that offers camp and riding lessons and hourlong guided trail rides through the 855-acre park.

For more than a week now, however, police and other Suffolk officials have been scouring a site located near a trail in the riding center. And they’re not looking for Mary or any other urban legend.

Instead, they’re working to solve the mystery of how treated construction materials ended up there. And whether the debris contains potentially dangerous materials.

The investigation began after Suffolk park officials noted a pile of debris near a riding trail. The county called in the state Department of Environmental Conservation, officials said, to take a look at what appeared to be “processed construction material.”

At a news conference late last month, County Executive Steve Bellone said it appeared “ground was being laid and prepared for a larger and more significant dumping of material.”

How long has this been going on? Suffolk officials can’t be sure, although they’re certain it didn’t happen over one night.

So now comes the investigation. And the tests. And, ultimately, the cleanup. On Friday, Suffolk officials said a criminal investigation was ongoing to determine where the material came from, whether it includes dangerous materials and why it was dumped without required clearance from the county.

The county has closed off 15 acres of the park. And the riding center is now closed.

Suffolk officials aren’t casting for spirits along Sweet Hollow Road, they’re handling a criminal investigation. “We will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law those who were responsible for any actions that are damaging and destructive to our parks,” Bellone said.

Which is exactly the way to go.

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