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Editorial: Good first step in Islip dumping case

Roberto Clemente Park remained closed as air monitors

Roberto Clemente Park remained closed as air monitors were installed May 9, 2014. Islip Town officials were told as early as November 2013 that dumping on a large scale was going on in the park, months after work began to improve soccer fields, Newsday reported May 11. Photo Credit: Randee Daddona

The indictment Monday of six individuals and four related corporations in the Islip dumping case is the latest brush stroke in a scary picture of how a simple request from a Brentwood church to fix soccer fields in a local park went so badly wrong.

The indictment and reporting by Newsday show that thousands of tons of contaminated construction debris were dumped illegally in four locations in the Town of Islip. It alleges that two town officials knew of the dumping, did not stop it and sought to conceal it. It makes clear the motivation was greed -- disposing of such waste legally is expensive. And it invites questions about relationships between politically connected businessmen and town officials.

The charges are a good first step, and the public deserves to have them aired. But the follow-up will be critical.

The fact that so much debris contaminated by asbestos, petroleum-based products, heavy metals and pesticides was dumped all over town -- and the cost savings for the alleged dumpers -- leaves us questioning whether these are the only people and places involved in this kind of activity. Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota wonders, too, and is continuing his investigation into illegal dumping on Long Island. He needs to be relentless in his pursuit.

We should examine whether we need new laws to regulate trucks that carry construction debris -- via a manifest system to document shipments, for example. The downstate region near New York City, the epicenter of construction debris, has long favored such a system, but upstate areas have opposed it. And we should consider whether environmental crimes that currently are misdemeanors should be elevated to felonies.

By all means, punish anyone convicted of participating in the Islip dumping. Then do whatever is necessary to try to make sure it never happens again anywhere.

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