DA SINI ANNOUNCES SPECIAL GRAND JURY REPORT ON ENVIRONMENTAL CRIMES & ILLEGAL DUMPING
Findings Highlight the Need for New Laws to Combat Environmental Crimes & Protect Damage to the Aquifer, LI’s Sole Source of Drinking Water
Click Here to Read the Full Report
(HAUPPAUGE, N.Y.) – Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy D. Sini today announced the findings of an in-depth, year-long investigation by a Suffolk County Supreme Court Special Grand Jury, empaneled by District Attorney Sini in July 2018, into the commission and effects of illegal dumping and other environmental crimes on Long Island.
“The investigation and prosecution of environmental crimes is a top priority for my administration,” District Attorney Sini said. “This report is a wake-up call that if we do not take immediate action to increase law enforcement’s ability to hold bad actors accountable and deter environmental crimes from occurring, these acts could result in irreparable damage to our environment and to Long Island’s aquifer, the sole source of our drinking water.”
The Special Grand Jury concluded that protecting the environment of Suffolk County from illegal dumping and sand mining is of paramount importance in light of the fact that Suffolk County sits atop an aquifer, which is the sole source of drinking water for its residents. Their report includes recommendations on legislative and administrative action to effectively combat environmental crimes and provide avenues to pay for remediation and restitution to the victims of those crimes.
The District Attorney’s Office is currently working in close collaboration with New York State and Suffolk County officials as well as its law enforcement partners to implement the recommended actions to further protect the public from the dangers of environmental crimes, including illegal dumping and sand mining.
“These crimes pose a clear threat to the health and safety of our residents and to our environment,” District Attorney Sini said. “We are committed to working with our partners at all levels of government, law enforcement agencies and environmental advocates to effect the necessary legislative and administrative changes to protect Suffolk County from environmental crimes.”
SPECIAL GRAND JURY:
The Special Grand Jury was empaneled from July 18, 2018 through August 2, 2019. During the first phase, the Special Grand Jury heard testimony and reviewed evidence related to an investigation of an illegal dumping scheme known as “Operation Pay Dirt.” As a result of the witnesses and evidence presented in connection with Operation Pay Dirt, the Special Grand Jury issued two separate criminal indictments: a 130-count indictment charging 30 individuals and 9 corporations; and a 5-count indictment charging one additional corporation. The defendants were indicted in connection with a scheme to illegally dispose of solid waste and construction & demolition material at residential and commercial properties across Long Island in order to avoid the regulations and fees associated with proper disposal. During the second phase, the Special Grand Jury considered legislative, executive, and administrative action to address illegal dumping and illegal sand mining operations.
The focus of the Special Grand Jury investigation was on two types of environmental crimes: illegal dumping and illegal sand mining operations.
Illegal dumping is the improper disposal of solid waste, including construction and demolition (“C&D”) material. These schemes benefit construction and demolition companies that would otherwise have to pay fees for proper disposal of C&D; waste transfer and recycling facilities that dilute C&D material with dirt rather than dispose of it pursuant to legal requirements; haulers who are willing to haul diluted C&D material and other solid waste to unwitting customers at nearby sites rather than driving it greater distances for proper disposal; and dirt brokers who connect the sources of C&D materials or diluted fill with facilities willing to participate in the fraudulent scheme or with unwitting customers looking for clean fill.
Sand mining is the extraction of sand from beneath the ground’s surface, which is a particularly lucrative operation on Long Island because of the unique makeup of its sand. While sand mining is legal with the proper permits, the Special Grand Jury found that illegal sand mining occurs on Long Island, which may pose certain risks to the environment, including the aquifer.
LEGISLATIVE & ADMINISTRATIVE RECOMMENDATIONS:
The Special Grand Jury recommended several legislative and administrative actions to effectively deter and prevent environmental crime, including the following: