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Tracking is overdue to stop illegal dumping

Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood remains closed on

Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood remains closed on Feb. 12, 2015, after dumping contaminated the soil. Credit: Newsday / Chuck Fadely

The brazen cavalierness behind the infamous illegal dumping case in the Town of Islip was stunning. Six individuals and four companies were indicted in connection with the dumping of thousands of tons of contaminated construction debris in a Brentwood park and three other locations. So it comes as good news that the state's principal environmental watchdog agency is revising regulations intended to stop such actions.

Among the commonsense measures being considered is the creation of a manifest system that would use a tracking document to identify where construction and demolition debris is being generated, who is transporting it, and its intended disposal location. The increased oversight -- which would help identify and, possibly, deter illegal dumping -- has been sought for years by officials in downstate areas near New York City, the epicenter of construction debris.

The Department of Environmental Conservation has not updated its rules in a comprehensive way since the 1990s. An overhaul is overdue. The current process began about six years ago -- interrupted by superstorm Sandy in October 2012, which diverted the DEC's resources and attention. The process understandably is thorough and the scope of solid waste regulations is immense, but six years is time enough. The DEC must stay focused and get these regulations done.

Similarly, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman should investigate whether there are other ways to deter illegal dumping -- for example, by elevating certain environmental crimes from misdemeanors to felonies and increasing penalties for violators. What happened in Islip proves we need new tools to battle this old problem.