The state Department of Environmental Conservation and Brookhaven Town are investigating the dumping of construction debris, carpeting, old furniture and other trash in Tanglewood Park in Coram.
Brookhaven Town spokesman Jack Krieger said Monday the case will be turned over to the law department and crews will clean up the debris.
DEC officials said the agency first investigated allegations of dumping there in November and notified the town’s park department, recommending that the area be cleaned up.
The probe is continuing, DEC spokesman Sean Mahar said, adding the agency is “in the process of still trying to determine how the waste got there.”
On Friday, Brookhaven Town crews removed landscaping debris that had been dumped on the edge of a ballfield at the park off Howe Road and Hawkins Path. However, after Newsday called the town to ask about material dumped in a number of park locations, crews went back Monday to investigate a wooded area.
“It looks like there is some mounds of debris,” Krieger said. “It’s wood, carpeting, things that would come out of people’s houses.”
Suffolk County Legis. Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) said she reported the possible dumping in late October or November to the town, the Suffolk County district attorney’s office and the DEC after a resident called her office saying he had found debris, broken bottles and other items in the parkland behind his house.
That resident, Cesar Armas, said he bought his property, which backs up to the park, in January 2016 and noticed that part of the park’s fencing was missing. He called the town to report that and what he saw in the park.
“You can’t venture too far in there,” Armas said. “You don’t know what’s underneath. You don’t want to cut yourself.”
He said a Suffolk County Police Department detective contacted him but seemed more interested in people being in the park after-hours than any dumping.
Robert Clifford, a spokesman for District Attorney Thomas Spota, said the office conducted a site investigation and closed the case without further action.
“No evidence of hazardous or contaminated material was found,” he said in an email. “It appears the debris and trash dumped in this park was dumped there over the years by different parties, a problem seen in parkland in Suffolk County for years . . . .”
DEC officials said the Tanglewood Park situation does not appear to be large-scale dumping, such as that uncovered last year at West Hills County Park in Huntington Town and in 2014 at Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood. Clifford agreed.
Hahn found the lack of action by the district attorney’s office disheartening. “Part of being successful in stopping this is demonstrating that there are consequences when this happens,” she said. “There need to be consequences. We can’t allow it to continue.”
Krieger said the town was notified only about old tires in November and cleaned those up.
“As we went deeper into the woods over the last couple of days, we discovered there was other stuff back there,” he said.
Mahar said the DEC verbally communicated with the town in November and will follow up formally by letter this week.
Hahn — who chairs committees for the environment, planning & agriculture and parks & recreation — said she plans to create a parks watch program to encourage residents to report suspicious behavior and illegal dumping. A bill has been introduced to the legislature.
She also is holding a forum Friday morning in Brentwood for parks officials and politicians to discuss better ways to protect land set aside for preservation and recreation.
“We all have to come together and say this is unacceptable and brainstorm . . . and really figure out how to stop this,” Hahn said. “This should not be happening.”
Penalties for dumping solid waste can be up to $11,250 per violation and $11,250 per day that the violation continues. If the amount dumped is more than 10 cubic yards — roughly equal to 5 feet by 5 feet and 10 feet deep — the penalties double, Mahar said.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story included an incorrect description of 10 cubic yards.
Tip line to report dumping
The state Department of Environmental Conservation’s tip line to report illegal dumping or other suspected environmental crimes is 844-332-3267.