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State regulators draw up proposed rules to halt illegal dumping

Construction vehicles at the remediation site on Veterans

Construction vehicles at the remediation site on Veterans Way in Islandia on the afternoon of Dec. 16, 2014. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

State environmental authorities are drafting rules they hope could halt illegal dumping of the kind that prosecutors allege has occurred at a Brentwood park and three other locations in Suffolk County.

In an April 7 letter to state Assemb. Steven Englebright (D-Setauket), state Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens said the department is working on revisions that would increase regulatory control over construction and demolition debris -- the type of material believed to be dumped at the four sites in Suffolk County.

Those measures have been in the works for years, Englebright said. They would include a requirement that the debris be tracked from the point of origin, Martens wrote.

"Tracking documents would allow enforcement staff to identify haulers which are properly transporting these wastes, and those that are not," he wrote. "This change, among many others, is intended to provide greater oversight of the movement and disposal of waste in the state."

The letter was partly in response to a request from former state Assemb. Robert Sweeney, who on Dec. 9 urged Martens and New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman to investigate the issue, noting the "ease with which illegal dumping activities can be conducted."

"As long as there is little risk of prosecution and it is less expensive to discard the waste illegally there will be individuals who will be willing to do so," wrote Sweeney, the former head of the Assembly's Environmental Conservation Committee, who retired last year.

Englebright, the new head of the committee, said he thought the additional regulations would have made dumping more difficult at the four Suffolk County sites -- Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood, a 1-acre private property in Central Islip, a six-home development for veterans in Islandia and a protected wetlands area in Deer Park.

Six men and four companies were indicted in December in connection with the dumping. All have pleaded not guilty.

By requiring a paper trail, Englebright said, "it makes the waste haulers very self-conscious because they know they're going to have to be accountable right from the beginning."

While Martens wrote that the DEC planned to "implement additional enhancements promptly," Englebright said he hoped the draft regulations would be available soon.

"The agency needs to get with the program of completing what they've clearly already given a lot of thought and work towards," he said. "I'm going to encourage them to give us a timetable, and seek some closure."

The review is expected to be completed within the next few months, after which the draft regulations would be available for public comment.

A source said the draft revisions, "a huge undertaking" that was part of a larger retooling of agency regulations beginning well before the Suffolk dumping cases, still might not have prevented the dumping from occurring.

"Bad actors will find ways to evade regulations," the source said. "That's what they do."

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