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New test shows contaminants above state limits around Veterans Way homes

Cleanup continues on Veterans Way on Dec. 2,

Cleanup continues on Veterans Way on Dec. 2, 2014, off Motor Parkway in Islandia. Credit: James Carbone

Results from a second round of testing around homes built in Islandia for returning veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan show levels of contaminants in the soil that exceed state standards for residential properties and groundwater protection, according to an engineering firm that conducted the study.

Eight semivolatile compounds were found in levels higher than state Department of Environmental Conservation standards in the front of homes No. 1 and 2, and in the backyard of house No. 5, according to Eric Arnesen, general project manager with Nelson, Pope & Voorhis, LLC of Melville, the firm that conducted the testing.

These results come after an earlier test that said substances found in the dirt around the houses did not exceed state standards. Contaminants found in a berm on the site were above state standards.

The compounds discovered in the new tests were also found underneath the pavement at the northern end of the subdivision, Veterans Way. The roadway, which extends south from Motor Parkway, was built during construction of the six homes in 2013.

The eight compounds that exceeded state limits are hydrocarbons that can cause cancer. They include: Benzo(a)anthracene, found in three test spots at levels of 3,030, 1,080 and 1,490 micrograms per kilogram, according to the report. Acceptable levels for that compound would be at 1,000 micrograms for residential and protection of groundwater. Indeno(1,2,3-cd)pyrene levels in four tests were at 2,500, 1,190, 1,150 and 698 micrograms per kilogram, while DEC standards for residential are 500 micrograms per kilogram.

Testing was first done in May by Enviroscience Consultants Inc. of Ronkonkoma, at the behest of Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota during his investigation into illegal dumping. Those tests detected toxins in the soil around the homes, but at levels below DEC standards.

Those tests were done of boring samples at as much as 15 feet in depth. These new samples taken last month -- following a DEC-approved plan -- were taken primarily by digging test pits at least 3 feet down into the soil, in addition to other methods.

"These samples were taken in different locations in comparison to the Enviroscience report," said Arnesen, who said most of the findings do "not appear to be overly excessive" above DEC standards.

The DEC, which was sent the report on Wednesday, said in an email the results of these tests are under review.

Last month, six men and four companies were indicted on charges connected with their roles in allegedly illegal dumping at four sites in and around Islip, including Veterans Way, Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood, a private lot in Central Islip and a sensitive wetlands area in Deer Park.

Of those indicted, Thomas Datre Jr. faces charges that he brought contaminated fill to the Veterans Way site and his father, Thomas Datre Sr., is accused of allowing his son to bring in the fill although he knew it was unacceptable, prosecutors have said. All have pleaded not guilty.

The six homes were erected in 2013 by the Long Island Home Builders Care Corp., the charitable arm of the Long Island Builders Institute, a lobbying firm. Datre Sr. was president of the charity at the time the houses were being built.

Kevin Kearon, attorney for Datre Jr. and his companies, has repeatedly denied there is anything wrong with the Veterans Way site. Datre Sr., in an interview with Newsday in May, said he watched the fill being brought into the site and that it was "clean sand with boulders."

These latest tests were prompted by concerns from the homeowners, who were skeptical that the soil placed around their homes during construction was clean.

A spokesman for Spota has defended the first set of tests. In addition, Glenn Neuschwender, president of Enviroscience, said "there's a lot of variables" when it comes to testing and results it may yield.

"We took samples from the front and backyards that were boring samples and not taken from a trench," Neuschwender said. "It's easier to find contamination using that method than using a boring method, especially when you're told where to look."

Peter Creedon, an attorney for five of the six homeowners, said he conducted his own testing through a "reputable firm" months ago that showed there were higher-than-acceptable levels of contaminants in the fill surrounding his clients' homes. He said the latest testing results is "not news" to his clients, adding that "it's the reason our work is not close to being done at Veterans Way."

Nelson, Pope & Voorhis in its report recommended additional testing. A proposed work plan is being reviewed by the DEC.

Last month, 1,860 cubic yards of contaminated fill -- nearly twice the original estimate -- was dug up and carted off to a legal Pennsylvania dump site from a berm at the Veterans Way site. The excavation -- which cost the Long Island Home Builders Association $350,000 -- left a 25-foot hole in the ground.

With Jennifer Barrios

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