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Know Your Rights
Source: Newsday
Subject: Housing & Environmental Justice
Type: Media Coverage

Roberto Clemente Park cleanup could take at least six months, say officials

It could take at least six months to fully clear Roberto Clemente Park of the estimated 50,000 tons of construction debris laced with toxins, Islip Town officials say, prompting concerns from health experts, environmentalists and local residents as they await full disclosure of contaminant levels.

The soil analysis Ronkonkoma-based Enviroscience Consultants Inc. has shared with Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota and officials from Islip, the state and county health departments and the state Department of Environmental Conservation has not been publicly released.

“That’s a problem,” Dr. Marc Wilkenfeld, chief of the Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, said in an interview Tuesday about the results’ not being made public. “From a public-health point of view, you need to know what was there and how much of it was there.”

The town’s cleanup timeline had to be extended after Spota, who is conducting a criminal investigation into multiple dumping sites throughout Islip, announced May 29 that heavy metals, pesticides and petroleum-based products had been found at the Brentwood park.

Initial tests for asbestos at the park were positive at levels as high as 44 percent, Spota said on May 6, but new findings of banned pesticides and insecticides such as DDT, chlordane and dieldrin and metals including chromium, cadmium and lead forced Enviroscience to rework the remediation plan.

The firm, working for the district attorney’s office, has 30 days to complete the plan, town officials said, which requires approval from the state DEC and state Department of Labor. State and county health officials and the Suffolk County Water Authority will also weigh in.

The town will then need as many as four weeks to hire a contractor to start work, around mid-September at the earliest and only after Spota allows access to the site, officials said. The park has been closed since April 23 as investigators probe dumping as far back as last June.

Cleanup costs are expected to rise due to the range of contaminants confirmed and the possibility that some of the debris will have to be trucked out of state, town spokeswoman Inez Birbiglia said, but a final number cannot be calculated until the remediation plan is approved.

The added costs would require amending a town resolution passed last month to sell up to $6 million in bonds, based on early estimates of $3 million to $4 million for cleanup and $1.5 million to $2 million for reconstruction of the park and its pool.

Meanwhile, the Suffolk County Department of Health has hired Enviroscience to do $25,000 of work, including nine weeks of air testing at a contaminated site at Islip Avenue in Central Islip, which is said to have toxins similiar to those in the park, health department spokeswoman Grace Kelly-McGovern said.

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