Southern District highlights
Pesticides need permits
On April 25, ECO Dustin Oliver was assisting DEC’s Bureau of Marine Habitat Protection staff with an inspection in a community when he noticed a landscaping company with one of its employees applying pesticides with a backpack sprayer. After observing that the business vehicles did not have any decals displayed to indicate that the operation was a valid commercial pesticide business, Oliver conducted an inspection. He determined the company was not a registered pesticides business, nor did any of the employees have a commercial pesticides applicator permit. The owner of the company was issued tickets for multiple violations and given information on how to obtain the correct registration and training to operate a commercial pesticides business.
Earth Day detail
(Orange and Rockland Counties)
On April 27, Lt. Martin Townley and ECOs Aaron Gordon, Dawn Galvin, Kris Shephard, Neil Watt, Jeff Conway, Deo Read and Claude Stephens conducted enforcement details in Orange and Rockland counties. The officers focused their attention on environmental conservation laws related to commercial motor vehicles and conducted checks for heavy duty diesel emissions, solid waste transportation regulations as well as other environmental laws. In total, 15 tickets were written, charging violations ranging from transporting solid waste without a cover to operational requirements for regulated waste transporters, as well as air quality violations.
On May 3, ECO Sean Dewey appeared for an arraignment hearing on a State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System violation against an inn owner at the Town of Catskill Court. The owner was previously fined $1,000 for the violation. During the proceedings, the inn owner argued with the judge, saying that she was not responsible for the fine. The Catskill town judge sentenced her to 15 days in jail.
On May 3, 2011, ECO Aaron Gordon responded to a complaint of a contractor removing siding and asbestos from the side of a building in the Village of Warwick and allowing it to drop off the building into an adjacent stream. The contactor was directed to stop work until an asbestos waste determination was made through the Department of Labor and the pollution was removed from the stream. The test results eventually came back positive and the contractor was advised to have the asbestos waste removed in a legal manner. Due to the contractor’s failure to comply with these directions, he was cited for depositing an offensive substance into waters of the state, contravention of water quality standards and endangering public health, safety and the environment in the 4th degree. Assistant Attorney General Hugh Mclean prosecuted the case in the Village of Warwick court. On April 25 of this year, the contractor pleaded guilty to all three misdemeanor charges. The sentence was three years probation, a $15,000 fine, $4,013.24 in restitution to the village for the cost of removing the waste from the stream and 50 hours of community service.
On May 10, at 3 p.m., ECO Matthew Krug responded to a call to assist the Suffolk County Police Department Motor Carrier unit with a truck leaking oil. The truck was collecting waste oil from local garages for recycling. The truck, however, was also leaking waste oil and motor oil onto the pavement while the vehicle was being inspected. While the ECO was writing up tickets for the truck, the Suffolk County Police Department brought in two more trucks with uncovered loads of solid waste and a fourth truck operating an unregistered pesticides business. In total six citations were issued by the ECO, accompanied by dozens of tickets by Suffolk County police for equipment violations.
Dump Day gone wrong
On May 19, ECOs James Davey, Aaron Markey and Lt. Meg Filmer responded to a site where the county was hosting a hazardous waste day for the citizens to dispose of their hazardous waste. One citizen brought in materials from an old pharmacy that contained radioactive elements and crystallized picric acid, a material that is highly explosive. The area was cordoned off and Westchester County bomb squad was called in to handle the materials. John O’Mara of DEC’s spills unit responded to oversee the cleanup.
Pollution source addressed
In November 2011, ECO Joshua Wolgast was contacted by the Glen Cove Police Department about a site in Glen Cove that it had concerns about. He looked over the situation and contacted the Region 1 Bureau of Environmental Crimes Unit investigators. The site was an illegal vehicle dismantling business hidden behind an industrial building a mere 60 feet from the Glen Cove Canal. Through surveillance, it was found they were dismantling heavy equipment. On Dec. 22, 2011 a search warrant was executed on the site. Samples taken at the site revealed a high amount of oil, fuel and other petrochemicals in the sea of oily mud that the operator had created in only three months. On May 21, the owner was charged with 10 counts of discharging without a permit, a Class E felony, and 10 counts of endangering public health, safety and the environment, also an E felony, after which Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice held a press conference praising DEC officers and the Glen Cove Police Department for their work on this case. Numerous major news networks and print media attended. The operator had formerly operated on the other side of the canal and his former site is a Brownfield site.
An initial complaint of shooting at night and wild venison being sold to hunters prompted an investigation involving environmental crimes investigators Kathleen Jacoby and Michael Dangler. The investigation centered on a pheasant preserve in Durham, Greene County. After the initial investigation, it was decided to place an undercover investigator from the Division of Law Enforcement with the DEC into a big-game hunt at the property in the fall of 2010. While undercover, the investigator, who told the owner he did not possess a “doe tag” for that area, was presented with an opportunity to buy a DMAP tag from the hunting preserve’s owner for $100. The investigator took that opportunity and used the tag to successfully take an antlerless deer. Two of the preserve’s employees acted as guides during the hunt, although neither employee possessed a guide’s license. No shooting at night was witnessed, but an illegal discharge was observed coming out of a pipe behind the lodge that housed the hunters. After the season was over, the preserve owner submitted his required DMAP report to the DEC. Jacoby, with assistance from New Hampshire and Massachusetts conservation officers, began interviewing customers who successfully took deer using the DMAP tags. The investigation revealed that several of them had also paid $100 to use one of the preserve owner’s DMAP tags, and one customer had unlicensed guides assist them during their hunt. The preserve owner was subsequently charged in the Town of Durham Court with two counts of guiding without a license and five counts of illegal sale of DMAP tags, as well as an unrelated charge for the use of an illegal point source discharge. On Feb. 27, he pleaded guilty to two counts of illegal sale of DMAP tags, one count of guiding without a license, and a consent order on the pollution violation after having his septic system brought up to code and inspected. He paid $450 in fines, $225 in surcharges and $1,100 in restitution. In addition, he will not be eligible to take part in the DMAP program in the future.
Bagged for two dozen trout
On April 19, ECO Joshua Sulkey received a call from a fisherman at Belmont State Park who stated that there was another fisherman there using five fishing rods. The complainant gave an accurate description and location of the fisherman in question. Sulkey quickly responded. He located the fisherman, who produced a valid freshwater fishing license. However, he had two brook trout over his legal limit. He was also using five rods but stated that he was fishing with his friend who was on the other side of the spillway. The friend tried to walk in the opposite direction but was directed to come back so he could be checked. That subject was unable to produce a freshwater fishing license. Sulkey also observed two shopping bags in the nearby bushes which he found to be filled with brook trout. The fishermen tried to blame it on three other fishermen who they claimed had left when they saw the officer arrive; however, the bags matched two other bags that the two fishermen had in their possession. Sulkey then interviewed another fisherman who was at the lake. He turned out to be the complainant who had called and he confirmed the officer’s suspicions.The fishermen in violation had 24 brook trout between the two of them. They were issued summonses for possessing over the limit of trout, taking by means other than angling, and fishing without a freshwater license.
The three bears
On May 1, ECOs Brian Canzeri, Scott Daly, Michael Arp and DEC Region 4’s Chemical Immobilization Team responded to a report of a nuisance bear in the City of Albany. The bear was treed adjacent to I-787, tranquilized, tagged and placed in a bear trap for transport to Schenectady for review by a wildlife biologist. On May 2, the bear was transported and released in Greene County. On May 8, the same nuisance bear was observed in a residential area in the Town of Coeymans, Albany County. Lt. Jim Hays, ECOs Luke Billotto, Scott Daly, Brian Canzeri, and Region 4’s Chemical Immobilization Team responded. The bear was again treed, tranquilized, and placed in a bear trap for transport to DEC’s Schenectady office for examination by a wildlife biologist. On May 9, the bear was transported and released further away in Steam Mills State Forest in western Delaware County. On May 17, the bear returned yet again to urban Albany on the SUNY Campus. The bear was classified as a Class 2 nuisance bear pursuant to the Black Bear Response Manual and as such was euthanized by Division of Law Enforcement staff in consultation with DEC wildlife staff.
On May 10, ECOs Jason DeAngelis, Chris Valenty, Luke Billotto and Region 4 wildlife staff responded to a bear in a tree at 155 Front Street in the City of Schenectady. Wildlife staff tranquilized and transported the bear to the DEC’s Stamford sub-office for release the following morning. On May 11, the bear was released in a remote area of the region.
On May 16, ECOs Brian Canzeri, Scott Daly, Kurt Bush, Russ Fetterman, Luke Billotto and Kurt Swan responded to a report of a black bear in a residential neighborhood in North Greenbush, Rensselaer County. The bear was treed, tranquilized and subsequently released on May 17 by wildlife staff.
ARC Fishing Day
On May 16, ECOs Myles Schillinger, Beverly Whalen, Claude Stephens, Kristina Shephard, Investigator Cindy Harcher and Lt. Deming Lindsley participated in the ARC fishing day held at Lippman Park, Town of Wawarsing. The event is sponsored by the Ulster County Sportsmen’s Federation and the New York Conservation Officers Association. Challenged adults are assisted with fishing in the local lake, followed by a barbecue. This is a very positive experience for the young people and great public relations for the Division of Law Enforcement and the Ulster County Sportsmen’s Federation. Retired Officers Tim Canfield, Marion Hoffman and Howard Wendler and retired DEC wildlife biologist Dick Henry also assisted.
Returning to the scene
On April 29, a complainant called and stated there were two people taking shellfish from the Nissequogue River. ECOs Joshua Sulkey and Kaitlin Grady arrived at the river shortly after the phone call, but the diggers were gone. The complainant was able to give an accurate description of the two people and gave the license plate of the vehicle. On May 10, Sulkey was patrolling in San Remo near the river and recognized the license plate on one of the vehicles that passed him. The driver and passenger of the vehicle fit the description given by the complainant. While walking up to the vehicle, Sulkey observed a black garbage bag in the back of the vehicle. After he interviewed the driver and passenger, they admitted that they had oysters in the back of the vehicle. They further stated that they took them from the Nissequogue River. They were both issued tickets for taking shellfish from uncertified waters.
On May 14, ECO Jeremy Eastwood and ECO Brian Farrish observed a dark blue van picking up fish from a local fisherman at the New Suffolk boat ramp in the Town of Southold. The fisherman sold approximately 164 pounds of live eels to the owner of the van. Everything was in order with the fisherman; however, the individual buying the fish was found to be in violation for not having a valid food fish and crustacean dealer and shipper’s license. The subject, from Brooklyn, was issued a ticket for not having the license. The case is pending in Southold Town Court.
After patrolling several late nights and early mornings with very little horseshoe crabbing activity, the new moon and mild weather of May 20 proved to be a little more exciting for ECOs Alena Lawston and Don Damrath. As the officers approached a boat ramp in East Quogue late at night, they observed what appeared to be a horseshoe crab fisherman trailering his boat. The officers slowed their approach, waiting for the man to drive his vessel onto the trailer. When the ECOs reached the ramp in their marked patrol vehicle, the fisherman gunned his engine, backing his boat away from the trailer, then turned and sped away full-throttle across the bay in the dark. In his haste to get away from the ECOs and dump his catch (likely an overage) the subject left his trailer and truck in the water at the ramp with the lights on, door open, and engine running! Southampton police responded to the scene to issue parking and town code citations and the ECOs waited for the man to return to get his truck and trailer. About an hour later, the ECOs observed a sedan creeping down the dead end street very slowly. Sure enough, the owner, an endorsed horseshoe crab fisherman, returned to retrieve his truck. When questioned by the ECOs as to why he fled, he stated he thought "activists" were after him and claimed these mysterious "activists" assaulted him the previous night. When asked why he didn't call the police about the alleged assault, his concocted story got even weaker. The ECOs then followed him to a marina a few miles away where he had stashed his boat to inspect the vessel. Not surprisingly, the vessel was void of horseshoe crabs. The suspect claimed he hit a sand bar while fleeing the "activists" and had to dump his horseshoe crab catch to free the vessel from the bay bottom.
On May 22, Region 1 Lt. Frank Carbone, ECO Alena Lawston, ECO Jeremy Eastwood and Marine Enforcement Unit ECO Brian Farrish conducted patrols focusing on horseshoe crab activity in the Town of Riverhead and the south shore of western Southampton Town. Officer Lawston reported moderate activity on the south shore so at approximately 10:30 p.m., Eastwood and Carbone began surveillance in one location and Farrish established surveillance in another. A white van and red pick-up truck pulled into a parking lot and the occupants began to harvest horseshoe crabs in the southwest corner by a bridge. Eastwood notified Farrish of the activity while crouched in the reeds and was able to observe the subjects and listen to their conversation. The subjects repeatedly stated to each other to keep a lookout for the DEC. The subjects then loaded the crabs into the white van and the driver stated he was going to 7-11. The van exited the parking lot and Lawston began to follow them. The harvesters left behind their boat, and totes on the water’s edge, so Farrish and Eastwood continued surveillance. Lawston pulled into 7-11 just as the subject exited the white van and began to interview him. The subject in the van claimed to be an employee of another individual. The officer asked the driver where the crabs were harvested and he stated they were taken at the southwest corner of the Westhampton Beach Bridge by two other subjects who arrived a few minutes later with a completed vessel trip report for 100 crabs and valid horseshoe crab permits. With a fascinated audience of 7-11 patrons, the horseshoe crabs were counted out in the parking lot of 7-11. A total of 230 crabs were counted and the suspect received a ticket for taking over limit horseshoe crabs. The overage of crabs was returned to the waters of the state.