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Brentwood Park free of contamination after fill removal, officials say

A sign indicating an active cleanup is occurring

A sign indicating an active cleanup is occurring hangs on the gates to Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood on September 13, 2015. The park was closed last year due to illegal dumping. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

Test results at a Brentwood Park where Suffolk prosecutors say thousands of tons of tainted fill was illegally dumped show little to no contamination remains after the fill was removed, according to officials and an environmental consultant.

"In layman's terms, we got it all," said Glenn Neuschwender, president and chief executive of Enviroscience Consultants, the Ronkonkoma company overseeing the cleanup at Roberto Clemente Park for Islip Town.

In April, the town board approved a nearly $3 million contract with Gramercy Group Inc. of Wantagh to remove the fill, which prosecutors said was dumped in the soccer fields and a recharge basin. That operation began in June, with three-quarters of the fill sent to the Blydenburgh landfill and the rest, which did not meet standards for protection of groundwater, trucked off Long Island.

In a letter Friday to Islip Deputy Parks Commissioner Inez Birbiglia, Enviroscience's senior scientist Greg Menegio wrote that almost all of the soil samples taken from the park after the fill was hauled away showed contaminant levels below the state standard for residential properties -- a stricter standard than required for properties like the park.

While one sample taken from the southern area of the soccer fields showed a level of a hydrocarbon -- benzo(a)anthracene, a suspected carcinogen -- slightly above that standard, Menegio wrote the result was not of concern.

"Based on its slight exceedance, along with the proposed soil cover that will be installed as part of the park's restoration, all of the results are acceptable and demonstrate that the material removal plan was effective in removing the contaminated fill from the park," he wrote.

That one sample found the benzo(a)anthracene level at 1,030 micrograms per kilogram, while the standard is 1,000 micrograms per kilogram.

Benzo(a)anthracene was found at levels above restricted-residential standards -- a slightly less stringent standard than residential, and one typically used for parks -- in the fill at the park in the southwest corner of the soccer fields and on the southeast edge of the recharge basin, according to testing done by Enviroscience for the Suffolk County district attorney's office in May 2014.

Neuschwender said it was impossible to tell whether the level of the hydrocarbon found in the new sampling was from the fill or if it had been in the park before the dumping occurred.

In an email to Islip Town officials Thursday, Syed Rahman, regional materials management engineer for the state Department of Environmental Conservation's Long Island region, said the DEC would accept the results of the sampling and allow the town to submit its report on the results of the cleanup.

"I think that at the end of the day, we can all just take consolation in the fact the cleanup is done," Town Supervisor Angie Carpenter said. "It's an absolutely welcome sigh of relief."

Carpenter said the town is now waiting for the DEC to give it direction on a restoration and management plan for the property -- expected to occur sometime this month.

"We're pleased with how this has all gone," she said. "We're in the final stage."

Suffolk prosecutors said an estimated 50,000 tons of contaminated fill was dumped in the park as part of a scheme to avoid tipping fees to dispose of the fill legitimately.

Six men and four companies were indicted in December in connection with the dumping at that site and three others: a vacant lot in Central Islip, a six-home development for veterans in Islandia and a state-protected wetlands area in Deer Park.

All of the defendants have pleaded not guilty.

Neuschwender said a total of 25 sampling locations were tested after the fill was removed -- including five spots in a wooded area adjacent to the soccer fields where the fill had been pushed.

He said removal of the fill took about 42 days of work, and the amount of fill at the site ended up being just under 39,000 tons -- lower than the previous estimate, but higher than his company's original estimate of 32,000 tons.

The contaminants in the fill at the park included pesticides, hydrocarbons and metals, prompting the Suffolk legislature in December to direct the county's health department to drill test wells at the park to ensure the fill had not impacted the groundwater below the site.

Results from those wells, released in July, showed pesticides at "unusual and unexpected" levels in groundwater at and around the park, but county scientists suspect the source is something other than the contaminated fill.

Grace Kelly-McGovern, spokeswoman for the county's Department of Health Services, would not comment on the results of the endpoint soil testing Friday, saying in a statement that "the remediation process is under the jurisdiction of the NYS DEC and we are available to assist them if they request our help."

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