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Long Island

Veterans Way sees more cleanup of contaminated soil

Dirt is unloaded onto the property of homes

Dirt is unloaded onto the property of homes at Veterans Way on Motor Parkway in Islandia on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015. Dirt will be put around back of homes, then top soil will be laid on top of that by Friday. Photo Credit: James Carbone

Andrea Hunkins stood on her front lawn in Veterans Way in Islandia on Thursday and watched workers dig up contaminated fill just feet from her doorstep.

Two of her daughters tried to come outside to play, but Hunkins hurried them inside as the second round of remediation work at the six-home subdivision built in 2013 for returning veterans began.

It was nearly two years to the day after she and her family received the keys to their first home.

“This has been miserable on our lives, on our relationships, everything,” she said. “We have to live here and deal with this on a daily basis all the time.”

A criminal probe launched last year by Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota uncovered tens of thousands of tons of debris that prosecutors say was illegally dumped at four sites: Veterans Way; Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood; a one-acre private lot on Islip Avenue in Central Islip; and a sensitive wetlands area in Deer Park.

Six men and four companies have been indicted and are set to stand trial in February for their alleged roles in the dumping or facilitating the dumping.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation has approved a remediation plan for Veterans Way, which includes excavations in front of two homes to remove fill that has shown levels of semi-volatile organic compounds exceeding DEC limits, and for a 2-foot cover of clean soil or sod to be placed at the back of and on the sides of each property to cap those areas.

The DEC did not return a request for comment.

The six veterans, all returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, were chosen out of 130 applicants to purchase the homes, for which they paid $199,000, about half the cost of similar, market-rate homes nearby.

The land had been donated and members of the Long Island Builders Institute, through its charitable arm, Long Island Home Builders Care Corp., built the homes using donated materials.

This second cleanup effort comes a year after 2,500 tons of tainted fill was removed from a berm at the site, which is adjacent to Motor Parkway in the hamlet of Islandia.

Peter Creedon, attorney for five of the six Veterans Way homeowners, had insisted further testing be done by the DEC after a previous round of testing conducted on behalf of homeowners showed elevated levels of toxins around the homes that did not show up in initial tests.

The first hole, dug Thursday between Hunkins’ property and house No. 2, kept expanding past where contaminated fill was thought to be, said Eric Arnesen, general project manager with Nelson, Pope & Voorhis, LLC of Melville, an engineering firm that conducted the testing. A 20-yard truck was filled with the debris to be carted to a landfill in Pennsylvania.

“It’s frustrating that the DEC approved a plan that is insufficient for any of us living here. This is unacceptable,” Hunkins said. “Every time they start digging, they have to keep moving back to dig more and more. It’s all over the place. It’s under our driveways and they can’t get underneath there. It’s only going to be sufficient when they come in here and dig up every last inch of these lawns.”

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