Suffolk County District Attorney Raymond Tierney speaks Friday about the environmental...

Suffolk County District Attorney Raymond Tierney speaks Friday about the environmental initiative at the woods in Southhaven County Park.

  Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

Fines for illegal dumping on Suffolk County land would be increased while whistleblowers who turn in the offenders could see a larger payday under legislation expected to be submitted in January by County District Attorney Ray Tierney.

The Evergreen Initiative, which would be voted on by the GOP-controlled county legislature next year, also would allow law enforcement to impound any vehicles used during an illegal dumping scheme until the fines and cleanup costs are paid.

The bill also would authorize the district attorney's office to purchase $10,000 worth of surveillance equipment, such as cameras, drones and license plate readers, that would be installed in known dumping locations, including county parks, Tierney said. 

“The Brookhaven Landfill is going to be closed to construction and demolition debris [by the end of 2024] and that will mean that all such debris will have to be carted off of Long Island,” Tierney said during a news conference Friday at Southhaven County Park in Yaphank, where he encouraged local municipalities to mirror the fine amounts. “And the incentive that actors would dump here on Long Island to beat the system is going to increase. So we need to increase both the penalties and our vigilance to ensure that our environment is kept pristine.”

Currently, the maximum fine for illegally dumping debris and household waste on county land or in the protected pine barrens by an individual is $10,000 and $15,000 for companies, with the whistleblowers who provide information leading to an arrest of a polluter entitled to 25% of that penalty.

Under the proposed legislation, the fine would escalate to $15,000 for individuals and $25,000 for corporations, with whistleblowers collecting a third of that amount. 

Environmental crimes, officials said, can be reported through the Crime Stoppers tip line or the Suffolk County Parks Watch reporting system, while offenders also could be sentenced to clean up county beaches, parks and trails, officials said.

Incoming Suffolk County Executive Edward Romaine said he supports the measure and would sign the bill if it clears the legislature.

“The DA has taken a large step which will take a bite out of all the illegal dumpers,” Romaine said. “ … A great program. Well thought-out and I'm sure will be effective in making sure our green spaces stay green.”

The increased rewards for reporting dumping will be posted on the public entrance of every county park, Romaine said.

In October, a Holbrook couple pleaded guilty to illegally dumping cinder blocks and concrete near protected wetlands in Mastic Beach, agreeing to pay more than $2,600 in restitution, to fund a cleanup crew for the area and to personally plant more than 50 trees in the pine barrens as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors. The illegal dumping, which occurred in April, was captured on camera by a witness.

In September, a Bay Shore man was arrested and charged with illegally dumping hazardous waste and old tires at the former Pilgrim State Psychiatric Center in Brentwood, prosecutors said.

To date this year, the Suffolk County Sheriff's Office, which patrols the central pine barrens, has handled 27 illegal dumping cases.

“What we've discovered has included garbage of all sorts, from paperwork and yard debris to larger items like furniture, mattresses and even boats,” said Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr., adding that even household trash that could be picked up at the curb has been illegally dumped. “ … And if you think you're getting away with dumping your garbage for free, think again.”

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