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Push for investigations into Roberto Clemente Park dumping

A worker from the state Department of Environmental

A worker from the state Department of Environmental Conservation collects debris samples for testing at Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood on Thursday, May 8, 2014. Credit: James Carbone

An environmentalist who is running for the New York State Senate against Islip Town Councilman Anthony Senft Thursday pressed for federal and state investigations into the illegal dumping of tons of asbestos-laden materials into Brentwood's Roberto Clemente Park.

Adrienne Esposito of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment held a news conference in front of the shuttered park, calling on the state Department of Health and the federal Environmental Protection Agency to investigate the dumping for health concerns and groundwater contamination.

She also raised the issue of "environmental racism" -- the placing of hazardous substances or materials in minority or low-income communities.

"We want comprehensive testing of this site to include heavy metals, pesticides and petroleum products. Those are products that are commonly found in these types of construction and demolition debris," Esposito said. "Children were playing in this park with their families as dust was blowing around."

Esposito called for the EPA to investigate whether the dumping happened in this park because Brentwood has a sizable Hispanic and black community.

"We're angry, frankly. This park was supposed to be a gem and a jewel for this community," Esposito said. "Now it's turned into Poison Park, and that is a crime against this whole community."

Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota, who has opened a criminal investigation into the dumping, said that at least one "unscrupulous contractor" dumped about 32,000 tons of debris in the park, some of which contained asbestos concentrations as high as 44 percent.

At Esposito's news conference, Garry Moon, who has lived with his family across the street from the park for seven years, came forward with what he said was a hospital diagnosis of asbestos exposure in his infant son.

He said he took his 11-month-old son, Jizaiah, to Southside Hospital's emergency room Wednesday because the boy had stomach pains. He showed those present at the news conference a hospital discharge sheet diagnosing the boy with asbestos exposure, cough and reactive airway problems.

"I just want to make sure my kids are OK," he said.

Moon said he planned to take his other children to a doctor Friday to check for asbestos exposure.

Reached after the news conference, Senft said the town is acting swiftly to address residents' concerns.

"We are already testing the soil. We are already securing the site to ensure our residents are safe," he said, noting the town has hand-delivered and mailed out hundreds of letters to potentially affected residents.

Also Thursday, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone declared a state of emergency that allows the county to sign agreements with an environmental assessment company outside of the normal bidding process "in order to have an immediate study of the potentially hazardous contaminates" in the park.

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