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Schumer asks EPA to investigate dumping of toxic waste in Islip

A woman places a flower outside the locked

A woman places a flower outside the locked gates of Roberto Clemente Park on June 17, 2014. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Sen. Charles Schumer Thursday called on the Environmental Protection Agency to begin an investigation into the dumping of thousands of tons of contaminated materials on at least three sites in the Town of Islip.

"The EPA is the nation's top environmental watchdog," Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in an interview. "They are better at determining what was dumped and how hazardous it is . . . better than any other agency -- local, state or federal."

He said he was especially concerned because one of the sites -- a six-home development for war veterans in Islandia -- sits near a public-supply well on Nichols Road South.

Schumer said he asked the EPA to intervene via its authority under the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act -- otherwise known as the Superfund program. The properties do not have to be declared Superfund sites for the agency to act, Schumer said.

EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck said Thursday that her agency had not yet decided whether it would get involved, saying only that it would coordinate with the county before making such a determination.

"EPA stands ready to assist the county in any way possible to protect public health in Suffolk County," she said, declining to say whether talks with the county had already begun.

Schumer said he was not calling on the federal government to take over the criminal probe being conducted by Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota.

"It doesn't interfere with what he's doing," Schumer said of Spota. "He's looking for criminal wrongdoing. We're looking for health dangers."

In a statement, Spota said he welcomes the EPA's expertise.

"The EPA's advisory role will educate and inform residents of the affected areas who are rightfully concerned about their health and welfare," he said.

Islip Town spokeswoman Inez Birbiglia said the town would "work with any agency that has jurisdiction in this matter."

Asbestos, hazardous metals and other toxic materials, including banned pesticides and insecticides, were found in debris that was dumped at Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood and another property in Central Islip.

Metals, pesticides and petroleum-based products also were found in fill at the Islandia veterans development. Investigators are awaiting results of tests on debris dumped at a protected wetlands site in Deer Park on the Islip border.

Spota has said the materials at the Deer Park site were connected to "the same individual and entities involved in the illegal dumping at the other sites" in Islip.

With Sarah Crichton and Sarah Armaghan

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