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Contaminated debris removed from Veterans Way almost double initial estimates

Workers tackle a berm at Veterans Way in

Workers tackle a berm at Veterans Way in Islandia onTuesday morning, Dec. 16, 2014. The amount of contaminated debris found at the site is almost double the original estimate. Photo Credit: James Carbone

The amount of contaminated debris at the Islandia site where homes were built for a half-dozen Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans and their families is almost double the original estimate.

Cleanup crews have hauled away 1,860 cubic yards -- 2,500 tons -- of the tainted fill material in 86 trucks in the past two weeks, Mitch Pally, chief executive of the Long Island Builders Institute, said Tuesday. The charitable division of the institute, a lobbying group, built the houses on Veterans Way in 2013.

Officials initially projected 1,000 cubic yards needed to be removed from a berm at the site. But the work exposed fill going deeper than first thought. The development is one of four locations in Islip being investigated by the state and Suffolk County district attorney's office for the illegal disposal of contaminated materials.

Testing will determine if more fill needs to be removed.

The finding of additional contaminated fill material increased residents' worries about the effect on their children.

Lauren Broyles, 34, a private-school teacher who lives at Veterans Way with her husband and their two sons, ages 2 1/2 and 8, Tuesday called the situation "very stressful" as they await test results from soil around the homes.

Gaping hole dug

Engineers from the state Department of Environmental Conservation were at Veterans Way Tuesday as the site manager from contractor Nelson, Pope & Voorhis LLC of Melville took seven soil samples -- three from the bottom of the pit and two from each side. The excavation left a hole about 25 feet deep adjacent to the cul-de-sac and Motor Parkway.Work to remove the fill started Dec. 8. The Petry family, who lives in house No. 6 next to the berm, was moved to a nearby hotel for the duration of the project and hopes to be back in the home in time for Christmas, said Peter Creedon, a Northport-based attorney representing five of the six homeowners. The other families remain in their homes.

Additional testing was undertaken in the front and backyards of each home two weeks ago after the DEC approved a plan. Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota hired Enviroscience Consultants Inc. of Ronkonkoma to conduct the initial testing, which showed toxins around the homes at levels well below DEC standards.

Test results to determine if all the toxic fill has been removed, as well as the results from testing around the homes, are expected by the end of the week, Pally said.

Removing the additional fill material has increased the cost to $350,000 from the initial estimate of $225,000, officials said. Testing around the homes added another $20,000.

But the homeowners want more information about what went into the fill. They have set up an email address -- helpveteransway@gmail.com -- and ask that tips be sent there.

"We want to ask anybody who has any information about the thousands of yards of debris that was dumped . . . to please come forward and let us know," Broyles said, holding back tears. "It would help our families be safe."

Pally said he was confident that the test results from around the houses will be negative.

Awaiting test results

"The people who were there during construction have indicated to us they strongly believe that all of the contaminated fill all went into the berm," Pally said. "But we've done additional testing at the DEC's request and we will find out when the results come back."

The subdivision is within the Village of Islandia. Mayor Allan Dorman did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Six men were indicted on Dec. 8 as part of Spota's probe at Veterans Way, town-owned Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood, a private lot on Islip Avenue in Central Islip and a sensitive wetlands area in Deer Park. All of the defendants entered not-guilty pleas.

Thomas Datre Sr., 68, of Hauppauge, a prominent political fundraiser with his wife, Clara Datre, was charged with five counts on the dumping at Veterans Way.

Datre Sr., who was president of the charitable organization that built the housing, arranged for his son to bring the toxic fill to the site, although he had knowledge it was unacceptable, according to prosecutors.

Thomas Datre Jr., 41, of St. James, was charged with 29 counts, including felony criminal mischief, and was labeled the "mastermind" of a scheme to dump tens of thousands of tons of contaminated fill at the four sites.

Kevin Kearon, a Garden City attorney representing the Datre family and itsfour companies also charged in the indictment, has said "any suggestion that the Datre family in any way, shape or form knowingly put anyone at risk . . . is a vile, repugnant and demonstrable lie."

Datre Sr., in a May interview with Newsday after it was made public that Spota was looking into Veterans Way, said he watched fill come in that "was clean sand with boulders."

Creedon, standing next to the hole where debris had been removed, said Tuesday he saw "huge amounts" of reinforced concrete, rebar, brick, asphalt, wires and sewage pipes being removed from the berm.

"I've been here for two weeks," he said Tuesday. "I've seen about 100 trucks go out of here, filled to the brim, with nothing but construction debris and filthy soil -- no clean sand, no boulders."

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