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A tool to track debris disposal on Long Island

A shuttered West Islip pool is being reopened

A shuttered West Islip pool is being reopened by town officials to accommodate Brentwood residents as a criminal probe into illegal dumping will keep Roberto Clemente Park, which is pictured here, closed indefinitely. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

The photos are disturbing. In the last three months alone, the pages of Newsday have displayed tires buried in a Coram park, huge piles of asphalt and debris blocking roads in Manorville and Moriches, and burned-out cars and abandoned boats on public land in other parts of Brookhaven Town.

It’s appalling, but illegal dumping has been part of Long Island’s story for decades.

Perpetrators seeking to avoid paying disposal fees look for areas — preferably vacant, remote and unlit — to dump everything from construction and demolition debris to furniture, household trash, oil tanks, appliances and historic fill from New York City construction sites. The material befouls the environment and its contaminants threaten the region’s sole-source aquifer.

Officials at all levels of government have been cracking down with measures like highway checkpoints, hidden surveillance cameras in parks, and increased penalties for violators, and that’s been good to see. Another step that should be taken: The State Legislature should amend state law to allow the Central Pine Barrens Joint Planning Commission to establish its own penalties for illegal dumping on its land and to let its personnel give summonses to violators.

But the best tool to fight illegal dumping should be revisions to the state’s waste-disposal regulations by the Department of Environmental Conservation. An electronic system for tracking debris from where it’s created to where it’s supposed to be disposed would be the best weapon to deter and catch anyone who would degrade Long Island. — The editorial board

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