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Hundreds of bags of asbestos waste found in industrial container in yard

After Andrew Sirico moved into his rental home in Islip Terrace, he noticed contaminants located in industrial containers in his backyard. Sirico spoke to Newsday on Tuesday about the need to remove the hazardous material from the property.  Credit: Johnny Milano

Andrew Sirico loves the Islip Terrace home he and his three children rented and moved into in May as he and his wife began divorce proceedings.

The problem is the backyard.

There, blocking the entrance to the garage, are two industrial-size containers, including one filled with hundreds of bags marked "Danger, Contains Asbestos Fibers." Also inside are trucking records saying the materials came from MTA construction jobs around New York City in 2016. The materials were destined for a waste site in Waynesburg, Ohio, but somehow wound up in the yard of a landlord previously associated with MTA waste contractor Coastal Environmental, according to the records.

"I don’t know what the story is, but we have a problem," said Sirico, who pays $2,900 a month for the property. "It looks like a shipping yard."

Sirico said he has been working to have four trailers and other materials removed, and the property cleaned up. An attorney for the property owner said there already is a plan in place to remove the containers and remediate the site.

Sirico said he contacted the state departments of Health, Labor and Environmental Conservation, and Islip Town’s environmental department, asking for help.

"It’s not been taken seriously by anybody," he said.

Others involved say otherwise.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation said its "active investigation into this incident" is ongoing. The "DEC is coordinating with state and local officials and working with counsel to determine potential violations," the agency said.

Robert Dooley, an attorney for property owner Diana Honeycutt, said his client is aware of the problem and is working with regulators.

State and local authorities, he said, "Have asked that these issues be remedied, [but] we are not lawfully in possession of the property to do that. We are going to fix everything that we can."

Dooley said discussions with Sirico broke down after the tenant put new locks on the containers and declined to allow Honeycutt onto the property to inspect the trailers. That violated the lease agreement, Honeycutt said, and she since has sent Sirico a notice of default, and began proceedings to evict him.

Sirico had requested renovations and an extension to his one-year lease during discussions, Dooley said.

MTA spokesman Tim Minton, in a statement, said the agency is investigating.

"What’s depicted in the photographs appears to be an appalling breach of contract, state regulations and the public trust," he said. "The MTA hired a licensed asbestos abatement contractor to safely remove and appropriately dispose of asbestos waste from a construction site, and is shocked to see allegations that the firm failed to complete the job. Effective immediately, pending a thorough investigation, Coastal Environmental, Inc. and its owners will not be allowed to do business with the MTA."

The MTA paid Coastal Environmental $1.8 million for "various asbestos removal and disposal projects between 2010 and 2016, the agency said. Attempts to reach Coastal Environmental weren't successful. A phone number attached to company documents was answered by another company, and Dooley said while he couldn't speak for Coastal, he added, "I don’t think that company is around."

Caroline Smith, a spokeswoman for Islip Town, said the town first received a complaint about an "outdoor swimming pool, outdoor storage and rental without a permit" on Sept. 8. The town issued a "violation order to remedy for all town code violations identified at the property."

Not all the material at the home is in trailers. Scaffolding, wheels, joints and wooden planks that Sirico said he suspects were used in the MTA construction work also line the yard. He and two of his sons moved the material to a back part of the two-acre yard, where large stainless steel vats, an oil tank and piles of other material are scattered.

Sirico said he was able to move two trailers with a truck. Inside one is what appears to be an asbestos containment room transferred almost intact, including an exterior door labeled "Danger, Asbestos."

Sirico said he’s spoken to neighbors about the material, in part to alert them of potential dangers, only to discover they appear to have been there for years. He said he was told three young men who previously rented the property were known to hold parties atop the big steel containers.

"It is very dangerous having the trailer [not an airtight trailer] in a residential setting and in such close proximity to the house and rear deck," Richard Maniscalco, a private inspector for Jet Environmental Testing, wrote in a report for Sirico in August. "There is a real risk for asbestos poisoning until this issue is rectified by a certified and licensed asbestos abatement company."

Dooley said he can "empathize" about the material being a problem.

"I wouldn’t want that to be in anybody’s backyard," he said. "That has to be removed. [But] we didn’t feel the demands were appropriate" to do it with Sirico still there.

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