Schumer: Illegal Toxic Dumping Could Create Serious Health Hazards For Residents In Town Of Islip; Calls On EPA

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A Pattern Has Recently Emerged in the Town of Islip, With At Least Four Sites Contaminated With Toxic Waste, Including Heavy Metals, Banned Pesticides & ...

Brenwood, NY - June 21st, 2014 - U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today urged the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to investigate the recently discovered, disturbing pattern of contamination at several sites in the Town of Islip, including at a veterans housing development in Islandia, Brentwood’s Roberto Clemente Park, Islip Avenue in Central Islip and wetlands in Deer Park. The EPA is the premiere agency for ensuring the protection of public health and the environment. Initial testing at the sites has revealed a similar pattern of hazardous levels of heavy metals, banned pesticides and petroleum-based product. Suffolk County District Attorney Tom Spota is leading a criminal investigation of the dumping pattern to pursue wrongdoers. Schumer today said that the EPA has the authority to investigate dumping of waste and hazardous materials, as well as the resources and technical expertise to enhance and accelerate local efforts to identify and clean-up potential toxins used at dump sites. Schumer said, therefore, that the EPA should move rapidly to assist the investigation and eventual clean-up process.
 
“The pattern of illegal and toxic dumping in the Town of Islip is disturbing and calls out for the resources and expertise of the federal Environmental Protection Agency, which is the gold standard when it comes to investigating what has been dumped and what the potential impacts could be to public health and the environment. One of the sites is precariously close to a public drinking water well, another is in a park and a third is right smack in the middle of a residential community, and all require immediate action,” said Schumer. “That is why I am calling on the EPA to get involved here and assist the local and state officials who are already hard at work trying to get to the bottom of this awful situation. The EPA should immediately move forward with a coordinated and comprehensive investigation into health and environmental threats from this illegally dumped toxic material in Islandia, Brentwood, Central Islip and Deer Park.”
 
Schumer noted several details related to this pattern of illegal dumping. Veterans Way is a housing development for returning war veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan located in Islandia, Long Island. The 3.5 acre housing development contains six homes that provide affordable housing for these veterans.  In May of 2014, allegations emerged that Veterans Way had become an illegal dumping site for toxic waste during its construction, which led to investigations by Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota that showed evidence of DDT, chlordane, petroleum byproducts, cobalt, zinc, iron and lead. Veterans Way is located near the Nichols Road South wellfield, which supplies water to residents. Schumer noted this as an example of the need for thorough EPA investigation to ensure that hazardous materials did not enter the water supply.
 
Toxic materials have also been found at Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood, at an Islip Avenue site, nearby the town park in Central Islip, and in wetlands in Deer Park. It was reported that 50,000 tons of hazardous waste was dumped in Brentwood, and is likely the most polluted of the sites.  The waste includes asbestos, arsenic heavy metals and pesticides.  Three of the pesticides, chlordane, DDT and Dieldrin, have been banned in the United States because of their hazardous effects.  It could take years to clean up the waste found at these sites and could cost upwards of $4 million. 
 
Schumer today called on the EPA to help the New York Department of Environmental Conservation and the Suffolk County officials in their investigations of these four sites, and more if more are discovered.  The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), was enacted by Congress on December 11, 1980 and gives EPA the authority to investigate such a site. According to the EPA, this law created a tax on the chemical and petroleum industries and provided broad Federal authority to respond directly to releases or threatened releases of hazardous substances that may endanger public health or the environment. Over five years, $1.6 billion was collected and the tax went to a trust fund for cleaning up abandoned or uncontrolled hazardous waste sites.
 
CERCLA 1.) established prohibitions and requirements concerning closed and abandoned hazardous waste sites; 2.) provided for liability of persons responsible for releases of hazardous waste at these sites; an 3.) established a trust fund to provide for cleanup when no responsible party could be identified.
 
The law authorizes two kinds of response actions: 1.) Short-term removals, where actions may be taken to address releases or threatened releases requiring prompt response; 2.) Long-term remedial response actions, that permanently and significantly reduce the dangers associated with releases or threats of releases of hazardous substances that are serious, but not immediately life threatening.
 
A copy of Schumer’s letter is below:
 
Dear Administrator McCarthy:
 
I write you today to urge the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to conduct an investigation into the recently discovered contamination in at least four New York sites, including Veterans Way in Islandia, Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood, a site on Islip Avenue in Central Islip and wetlands in Deer Park. Initial testing has revealed the presence of hazardous levels of heavy metals, banned pesticides, and petroleum-based products at these three sites. I urge the EPA to immediately launch an investigation in coordination with local, county and state officials, and to provide technical assistance to both the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Suffolk County officials whose initial testing has determined the presence of these hazardous substances in the construction fill used during the building of the Veterans Way development, as well as at the other dumping sites. 
 
As you know, the EPA has authority under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) to investigate the releases or threatened releases of hazardous substances that may endanger public health, such as what testing has revealed to be present at these sites. In coordination with local and state officials, I urge your agency to conduct a full investigation into the source and extent of contamination at the site. This is particularly concerning in the case of Veterans Way due to its proximity to the Nichols Road South wellfield, a source for municipal drinking water. In addition, it is most troubling that hazardous material has been found at Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood, a place that is meant to be enjoyed by families and their children. We owe it to our service members and community’s children who may have been exposed to these harmful substances to take immediate precautions to ensure their safety.
 
Again, I urge that you work with local officials to conduct a full investigation of the illegal dumping of hazardous substances at the Veterans Way, Roberto Clemente Park, Islip Avenue, Deer Park and any other concerning sites that emerge. Thank you for your attention to this important matter and I look forward to working with you to quickly get resolve this most unfortunate situation.
 
Sincerely,
 
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer
 
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