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Give DEC more officers to find illegal dumpers

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is joined

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is joined by local politicians and activists as he announces a civil lawsuit against individuals and companies found responsible for illegal dumping at Roberto Clemente Park, Thursday May 4, 2017. Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

The battle against illegal dumpers on Long Island has been joined on many levels, and that’s good to see.

The brunt of the work is being done by the state Department of Environmental Conservation, which helped conduct a dragnet for trucks carrying waste in February, continues to probe suspected illegal dumpers, and is writing new waste disposal regulations.

Help has come from state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, who has filed a lawsuit seeking millions of dollars of damages from those involved in the dumping at Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood and three other sites, and from the Suffolk County district attorney’s office, which is pursuing its investigation into the dumping of debris at a riding center in Melville. Suffolk also has increased penalties for dumping in county parks and has started a new surveillance program.

But the DEC is handcuffed in pursuing these crimes. It needs investigators to follow leads and find perpetrators. The Long Island regional office has no environmental conservation officers dedicated only to solid waste. It needs two full-time officers to do a thorough job, as do the New York City and Lower Hudson Valley regions, all of which are now cooperating to nail illegal dumpers.

The DEC also needs to make sure its new regulations help those investigators as much as possible. Cradle-to-grave tracking of waste is essential, as is access to trucks’ GPS records, which is what Schneiderman’s office used to trace dumped materials back to 13 construction sites in the city and on Long Island.

The DEC needs investigators and resources. Doing a tough job is always easier when you have the right tools. — The editorial board