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Datre dumping trial brings in DEC expert

Syed H. Rahman, left, an environmental engineer with

Syed H. Rahman, left, an environmental engineer with the state Department of Environmental Science, testified Tuesday in the dumping trial of Thomas Datre Sr., right, and his son, Thomas Datre Jr. Credit: James Carbone

At the start of week five of a father and son’s dumping trial in Central Islip Tuesday, a state environmental engineer called by prosecutors told a defense attorney “everybody has a responsibility” for properly disposing of material.

Syed H. Rahman, an environmental engineer and the regional materials management supervisor with the state Department of Environmental Conservation, also used a blow-up flow chart to explain rules and regulations for properly discarding solid waste. He gave his testimony in the trial of Thomas Datre Sr. and his son, Thomas Datre Jr.

The Datres face charges of criminal mischief; endangering public health, safety or the environment; and operating a solid-waste management facility without a permit for their role in what prosecutors said was a scheme to dump tons of contaminated dirt and debris at four sites in Islip Town and Deer Park. They are among six men indicted in December 2014 in connection with the alleged scheme.

Before Rahman took the stand, Lt. Frank Lapinski of the DEC returned to finish Thursday’s testimony about his investigation. Datre Jr.’s defense attorney, Kevin Kearon, asked Lapinski if it’s the responsibility of the generator of the materials, either the property owner or general contractor, to conduct soil analyticals to determine if any contaminants are present. Lapinski answered, “Frequently, it is, yes.”

Kearon suggested it would make sense to conclude that the obligation to know results of soil tests does not include the truck driver who picked up the materials and delivered them to a dump site. “The truck driver? No,” Lapinski answered.

Later, when questioned by Kearon about who is ultimately responsible for various aspects of discarded material, Rahman told him it’s a group effort.

“The generator, the recipient, the people . . . bringing the material to the disposal facility,” Rahman told Kearon. “Anybody cannot pick any material up and just dispose of it on a land without knowing if that land or that facility has authority to accept this material. The people who are receiving it also have the responsibility of getting the proper notification or authorization from the DEC.”

Earlier Tuesday, Assistant District Attorney Michelle Pitman asked Lapinski if permits were sought for any of the sites where the alleged dumping occurred during an Oct. 2013 meeting he had with Christopher Grabe, of Islandia Recycling, also under indictment. Lapinski said no permits were submitted for the sites and to his knowledge, the DEC never issued permits for work at the four locations.

Rahman also testified about the four approved discarding methods using the display board.

During questioning by Assistant District Attorney Mark Murray, Rahman described a fifth unapproved method of disposing solid waste — bypassing approved regulations when hauling material and transporting it from an origination point directly to a job site.

“In your experience, why do people do this?” Murray asked Rahman about those who choose the fifth method.

“I would say economic benefits because when somebody is taking the material, they get paid to take the material away from the site generation and then whenever you go to one of these sites — registered, permitted or landfill — you have to pay the disposal costs,” Rahman said. “So you get both ways, you’re saving money.”

During cross examination, Kearon asked Rahman if the list of approved disposal methods, called Part 360 Rules “are sometimes complicated?” Rahman replied that he didn’t know.

Spota began an inquiry into illegal dumping in April 2014 after someone tipped the DEC to suspicious fill at Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood. Eventually, the investigation expanded to include allegations of illegal dumping of materials at an Islip affordable housing development for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and their families, a Central Islip sensitive wetlands, and a 1-acre lot in Deer Park.

Since the Datres’ trial began Feb. 23, jurors have heard testimony from several prosecution witnesses, including Islip Town officials, Suffolk police officers, builders and civilians. All testified about their concerns over what they saw at the various sites throughout 2013 and into 2014. Kearon and Datre Sr.’s defense attorney, Andrew Campanelli, have cross-examined witnesses about they suggested were are political motives aimed at to destroying the Datres and using them as scapegoats.

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