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Property owner promises cleanup of Central Islip dumping site

The owner of an illegal dumping site, seen

The owner of an illegal dumping site, seen on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, plans to finish remediation efforts soon at the lot on Route 111 and Sage Street in Central Islip. Credit: Newsday / Rachelle Blidner

A Central Islip site where tons of contaminated debris was illegally dumped will be “broom clean” in a week, the property owner’s attorney said Tuesday, nearly two years after the deadline initially set by state officials.

The 1-acre lot is the only site left to be fully remediated after a dumping scheme covered four Suffolk properties in tainted fill and led to convictions against five people.

Tommy Lau, part-owner of the site on Route 111 and Sage Street, has “been working to clean it up” but has faced financial and weather delays, said his attorney, Andrew Campanelli of Merrick.

“It was an expensive undertaking,” Campanelli said. “It was an undertaking he took very seriously, and we’re very close to completion.”

The time frame was announced a day after a Newsday reporter inquired about the status of the property, where piles of concrete material, a rusted construction trailer and what appeared to be cesspool rings were visible Monday and Tuesday.

Investigators in May 2014 found 1625 Islip Ave. covered up to 25 feet high with construction and demolition debris that contained asbestos, pesticides, lead and mercury.

Lau, who was not criminally charged in the dumping scheme, is part-owner of L-C Real Estate Group, which owns the parcel. He entered into an agreement with the state Department of Environmental Conservation in 2015 to clean up the property by June 2016. Lau estimated in court testimony that cleanup would cost at least $2 million.

Suffolk Legis. Monica Martinez (D-Brentwood) said Lau’s financial issues are “really no excuse” for the delays.

“I’m not going to hold my breath that it’ll be done in a week,” she said. “If it does happen in a week, I’ll say, ‘It’s about time.’ ”

The DEC said in legal filings it became aware of the Central Islip dumping in July 2013. It has not issued any additional fines against Lau after ordering he accept liability for the cleanup, an official said.

The agency said in a statement that it “continues to rigorously monitor the cleanup of this site in order to protect public health and the environment and has been closely overseeing the work of the property owner to ensure the proper removal and disposal of waste from this site.”

Residents who live and work near the Central Islip lot said the property has less debris than it used to, but they questioned how the eyesore, which prompts health concerns, has lingered for so many years.

Juanita Jefferson, who lives near the lot, said, “The cloud of dust and dirt is all the time.”

“It’s a headache. It’s a heartache,” Jefferson said. “How long is it going to take and what’s going to have to happen before they realize something needs to be done?”

The Suffolk County Department of Health Services frequently sprayed the property with water in 2014 to prevent exposure to dust and asbestos, officials said.

The other parcels in the dumping scheme, Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood, a sensitive wetlands parcel in Deer Park and a six-home development for veterans in Islandia, were fully remediated, with the Deer Park site completed in April 2017, the DEC said.

Health officials have said they do not expect the dumping sites to have adverse health impacts to the general public because contamination levels and the potential for exposure were low.

Lau has already removed about 15,000 cubic yards of material from his parcel, a DEC official said.

The remaining approximate 1,000 cubic yards of concrete material were set to be removed in the next few months, the official said before referring questions about the feasibility of Lau’s one-week time frame to the property owner.

Lau must perform soil samples after the material is removed to ensure cleanup is complete, the DEC said.

Thomas Datre Jr. and Christopher Grabe, who pleaded guilty for their roles in the Central Islip site dumping, were ordered by a state Supreme Court judge to aid and complete cleanup by June 27, 2016. The judge later extended the deadline by a couple months and deferred their jail sentences to April 2017. Datre was sentenced to concurrently serve 1 year in jail for each of four felonies, and Grabe was sentenced to 30 days in jail and five months of community service.

Datre is still helping with the cleanup, said Campanelli, without specifying. Campanelli also represents Datre’s parents, Thomas Datre Sr. and Clara Datre, in legal matters.

An attorney for Grabe did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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