NYC’s development boom created an illegal dumping problem on Long Island

State regulations have become more stringent

Apr.April 15, 2019 05:15 PM
Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood and DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos (Credit: The Cultural Landscape Foundation)

Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood and DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos (Credit: The Cultural Landscape Foundation)

A case of illegal dumping on Long Island has led to an overhaul of rules for construction and demolition debris disposal.

The change, enacted last year by New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation, stemmed from illegal dumping at Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood, Newsday reported. Since last year, most New York City debris — such as the 40,000 tons of contaminated material dumped at Clemente — now requires more detailed tracked from the facilities that process it and the trucks that transport it.

More than 7.3 million tons of construction and demolition debris are generated annually in the city, according to DEC estimates. About 635,000 tons, or 9 percent, is dumped illegally — with much of that heading to Long Island.

After the Clemente scheme was uncovered in 2014, the DEC launched several illegal dumping enforcement operations, including one from 2017 to 2018. It required the participation of a third of the department’s 288-member police force and resulted in more than 500 tickets issued to 40 trucking companies, the report said. Many of them were on Long Island.

Meanwhile, a sting called “Operation Pay Dirt” led to arrests last summer and subsequent charges filed by the Suffolk County district attorney’s office. An indictment in November included 130 counts on nearly 40 defendants. A few had connections to firms or individuals facing civil lawsuits in the Clemente case, according to Newsday.

The “Pay Dirt” scheme, authorities alleged, involved a “dirt broker” who posted classified ads to lure customers who needed “clean” dirt fill for their properties. Those customers instead received construction waste, some of which contained lead and diesel fuel.

The new regulations took effect in May 2018. The DEC couldn’t provide details of how many violations were issued for acts that were previously difficult to track. But DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos told Newsday that his agency is “starting to see a significant understanding that the regs are in effect and we mean business.”

Previous attempts to tackle illegal dumping often lacked ways to easily identify potential violators. Enforcement officers couldn’t immediately see paperwork that identified what the trucks were carrying and whether their contents could be reused as fill or needed to go to certain types of disposal facilities, the report said. [Newsday] — Meenal Vamburkar

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