Office of the County Executive

Robert J. Gaffney
County Executive
Eric A. Kopp
Chief Deputy County Executive

Press Releases Archive

Jun 24, 1999
(631) 853-4000
New Program to Prevent Dumping in Pine Barrens is Unveiled
Gaffney Introduces Tough New Dumping Law And Toll-free Citizens Hotline

Following through on plans outlined in his State of the County Address, Suffolk County Executive Robert J. Gaffney today introduced a tough new law to combat illegal dumping in the Pine Barrens, and announced the establishment of a 24-hour, toll-free hotline citizens can use to report environmental crimes in the 52,000-acre watershed.

Gaffney was joined by members of the Pine Barrens Law Enforcement Council, which is made up of 20 federal, state and local agencies which have jurisdiction over portions of the watershed area, at a press conference at Pine Barrens Law Enforcement Headquarters.

"With preservation of the Pine Barrens Core more than 90 percent completed, it's time to start focusing on protecting our drinking water supply against people who don't think twice about polluting for profit," said the County Executive. "This multi-point program will give the Pine Barrens Law Enforcement Council new tools to use in the fight against illegal dumping."

The new law introduced by Gaffney would be the first to specifically make dumping in the Pine Barrens a crime. Illegal dumpers would face penalties of up to a year in jail and fines of up to $10,000 for each offense. There were 34 incidents of illegal dumping in the Pine Barrens in 1998, and 18 so far this year, Gaffney noted.

"More than 15 trillion gallons of pure drinking water are essentially stored below the Pine Barrens for use by future generations," said Gaffney. "But 52,000 acres of wilderness is a lot of ground to cover, and the Pine Barrens Law Enforcement Council can't be everywhere at once. That's why we created a 24-hour, toll free hotline – so people can serve as ‘eyes and ears' to help protect the Pine Barrens."

The new, toll-free hotline, 1-877-BARRENS, will be posted throughout the Pine Barrens, officials said. Residents who report illegal activities could get awards of 25 percent of the fines collected as a result of their efforts under the new law, according to the County Executive.

A special Law Enforcement Plan, developed as part of the overall Comprehensive Land Use Plan for the watershed, identified lack of public involvement in reporting illegal activities as an issue to be addressed Gaffney noted.

The plan recommended the establishment of the Pine Barrens Hotline and the implementation of a public education program to encourage citizens to become involved in protecting the area. Gaffney said he would reach out to the media on behalf of the Council to seek assistance in publicizing the program.

"One of the issues identified by the Law Enforcement Council in its portion of the Pine Barrens Plan was the lack of involvement by members of the public in reporting illegal activities in the Pine Barrens," said Gaffney. "But the people of Suffolk County have shown time and time again that they really care about the environment, and with the proper tools and education, I know we can count on them to be stewards for the drinking water supply."


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