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Officials: Abandoned Port Jefferson Sta. plant owner has not removed pollutants

Brookhaven Town officials said Tuesday that the owner of an abandoned airplane-parts manufacturing plant failed to remove asbestos and other pollutants from the Port Jefferson Station property.

Supervisor Edward P. Romaine said Lawrence Aviation Industries owner Gerald Cohen had not cleaned up the 126-acre federal Superfund site on Sheep Pasture Road since September, when workers hired by Cohen allegedly left a pile of asbestos behind after removing metal from several vacant buildings.

Town officials said debris at the site, including asbestos, oil spills, leaking machinery and transformers, pose a health and safety risk to residents who live near the site.

Romaine and Councilwoman Valerie Cartright also announced plans to require new homes throughout Brookhaven Town to be inspected for soil vapors indicating the possible presence of volatile organic compounds. The law is aimed at preventing toxic plumes such as the one caused by Lawrence Aviation, town officials said.

"This town has zero tolerance for contamination," Romaine said during a news conference outside the gates of the vacated factory. "This land is an eyesore in the Town of Brookhaven."

Cohen did not return calls seeking comment. He served time in federal prison after pleading guilty in 2008 to charges that the company illegally stored corrosive wastes in two tanks at the site. Cohen owes more than $10 million in back taxes, Suffolk County officials have said.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency, in a report released last week, said the agency is removing three leaking transformers from the site. The state Department of Environmental Conservation is cleaning up oil spills there, the EPA said.

The EPA has spent at least $27.3 million to clean up the shuttered factory, which closed more than 20 years ago. Restoration of the site is expected to take up to 20 years.

Edward Garboski, president of the Port Jefferson Station-Terryville Civic Association, said he worried about the safety of residents who live in dozens of homes near the property. Town officials said Cohen did little to prevent trespassers from getting onto the site.

"Kids do play on the property," Garboski said. "There is a serious problem with asbestos."

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