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DA Spota: Banned pesticides, heavy metals in Veterans Way soil

Members of Enviro Science collected samples of dirt

Members of Enviro Science collected samples of dirt in front of homes at Motor Parkway and Veterans Way in Hauppauge recently on Friday morning, May 16, 2014. Members of the Department of Conservation and investigators from the district attorney's office were also on hand as the site was probed for contamination. Credit: James Carbone

A six-home development in Islandia for Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans is contaminated with heavy metals, banned pesticides and petroleum-based products -- the third such Islip site discovered during an investigation into illegal dumping in the town.

Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota announced Tuesday that an analysis of Veterans Way soil samples showed levels of contaminants deemed both "hazardous" and "acutely hazardous" under New York State Environmental Conservation Law.

"Whoever put this contaminated fill on this site did so with the knowledge that war veterans and their families were going to live in these homes," Spota said in a statement. "Their deceit is astonishing, leaving these heroes, and their families, in harm's way."

The test results are similar to recent findings at Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood and an Islip Avenue site less than 2 miles east of the town park in Central Islip.

Among the contaminants found at the Islandia site: the now-banned pesticides DDT and chlordane, and metals such as chromium, cobalt, nickel, zinc and lead. Some of the substances are known to cause cancer or damage to the human brain if ingested in sufficient amounts.

When the Veterans Way property was under construction last year, a large trench measuring 80 by 20 feet was dug in an area closest to the roadside, and witnesses told detectives that they saw trucks dumping into the trench. The area was subsequently grassed over and landscaped into a berm that rises above the roadside elevation.

Enviroscience Consultants, working for the district attorney, last month took samples from the berm and the front and back of each of the six houses, along with two samples slightly off to the edge of the property to provide background context.

The berm area, Spota said Tuesday, was where the highest levels of contamination were found.

"That means the fill in the berm has to be removed," he said. "We have called in the Suffolk County Water Authority and the county health department to review these results and develop plans for well testing and other measures to ensure the safety of the drinking water for this development."

Soil samples taken and tested from around the houses also tested positive for chlordane, but at levels far below what the state considers dangerous. The house samples also tested positive for low levels of cobalt. The results showed no evidence of asbestos.

In his statement, Spota drew a direct link to the veterans development contamination and the other sites found to contain toxic waste.

"This is similar fill with the same contaminants found at the other sites," he said of Roberto Clemente Park and Islip Avenue.

Spota said he personally met with the homeowners Tuesday night, explaining the new results to them. Efforts to contact the homeowners Tuesday night were unsuccessful.

The community was built by a charitable arm of the Long Island Builders Institute, the Long Island Home Builders Development Corp., until recently headed by Tom Datre Sr.

Builders institute members donated time and materials to construct the homes after the 3 1/2-acre site was donated by formerly Islandia-based CA Technologies.

Tuesday night, LIBI chief executive Mitch Pally told Newsday: "We are obviously very concerned about the situation that's occurred, and we will take all actions necessary to ensure the safety of all the homes and residents."

Pally said the contaminated fill arrived at the site without approval or knowledge of those organizing the construction. "We would never have let such material enter the property," he said.

In an interview last month as investigators were for the first time connecting the Islandia site to their probe, Tom Datre Sr. said he would stake his reputation on the quality of fill brought to Veterans Way.

He said he saw some of the fill come in. "It was clean sand with boulders," he said.

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