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For Release: Wednesday, September 19, 2018

DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officer Highlights

ECO Actions for Late August to Early September

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs) enforce the 71 Chapters of NY Environmental Conservation Law (ECL), protecting fish and wildlife and preserving environmental quality across New York.

In 2017, the 301 ECOs across the state responded to 26,400 calls and issued 22,150 tickets for crimes ranging from deer poaching to corporate toxic dumping and illegal mining, the black market pet trade, and excessive emissions violations.

If you witness an environmental crime or believe a violation of environmental law occurred, please call the DEC Division of Law Enforcement hotline at 1-844-DEC-ECOS (1-844-332-3267).

"From Montauk Point to Mount Marcy, from Brooklyn to Buffalo, the ECOs patrolling our state are the first line of defense in protecting New York's environment and our natural resources, ensuring that they exist for future generations of New Yorkers," said Commissioner Basil Seggos. "They work long and arduous hours, both deep in our remote wildernesses and in the tight confines of our urban landscapes. Although they don't receive much public fanfare, the work of our ECOs is critical to achieving DEC's mission to protect and enhance our environment."

Recent missions carried out by ECOs include:

Commercial Vehicle Enforcement - Cortland County
On Aug. 30, ECO Don Damrath participated in a commercial vehicle enforcement detail in the village of Homer with members of the New York State Police and Homer Police officers to investigate commercial vehicles using secondary roads to avoid commercial vehicle inspection stations on Interstate 81. Approximately 30 commercial trucks were inspected, resulting in 94 violations. Eleven had violations or equipment defects serious enough to warrant taking the trucks out of service. ECO Damrath issued three summonses for violations of ECL, including one for operating a heavy duty diesel vehicle with non-functioning emission control apparatus and two for violations for operating a heavy duty diesel vehicle with emission control apparatus disconnected, detached, deactivated, tampered with, or in any other way rendered inoperable or less effective than designed by the original equipment.

Smoking Trucks in village of Homer- image 1Smoking Trucks in village of Homer - image 2
Smoking Trucks in village of Homer

Early Salmon River Activity - Oswego County
On Aug. 30 at approximately 7:20 p.m., ECO Tony Panipinto observed two anglers fishing in the closed Lower Fly Zone of the Salmon River. ECO Panipinto approached the pair and requested fishing licenses and identification. Neither could produce the requested documents, with one subject explaining that he had left it in his truck. The other subject said he did not have his license with him. After walking to their vehicle, parked directly in front of the regulation signs that detailed the fishing ban, the first angler "discovered" the documents in his pocket. ECO Panipinto checked the pair for unlawful fish take and for proper tackle and gear but found no other violations. The anglers were informed of the rules, regulations, and laws relative to producing a license upon request, carrying a license while fishing, and fishing in the closed section of the Salmon River. The ECO issued the first angler a written warning for failing to carry his license, and both men received tickets for fishing in a closed section of the Salmon River.

Motor Vehicle Accident - Westchester County
On Sept. 3, ECO Craig Tompkins was traveling south on I-684 in the town of Bedford when he heard a call over the radio reporting a vehicle off the highway. ECO Tompkins quickly headed to the scene and spotted a trooper tending to the vehicle, which had gone down an embankment and into a small patch of woods. The officer created a path through the brush to assess the condition of the occupants. ECO Tompkins was then able to make a path to a local road that passed under I-684 to flag down additional responding officers, EMS, and Fire personnel. The ECO then assisted emergency personnel carrying the two individuals out of the woods to waiting ambulances.

Emergency responders moving occupants from the woods
Emergency responders moving occupants from the woods

Busy day on the Pier - Kings County
On Sept. 5, while checking fisherman on Canarsie Pier, ECO Adam Muchow found a stringer of fish hanging over the edge of the pier. The stringer held four legal-size porgy and two short black sea bass. After interviewing fishermen in the area, ECO Muchow found the owner of the stringer at the parking lot edge washing his kayak. The fisherman admitted to catching the porgy, but said his friend "Frank" had caught the bass and would be back in a little while. The ECO told the fisherman he would run his information and wait for Frank's return. After running the data, Frank had still not come returned. The officer issued the fisherman a summons for possessing undersize black sea bass. The summons is returnable to Kings County Court.
After checking a few more fishermen, ECO Muchow discovered a possum on the other side of the pier eating a fish head. The officer used his catch pole to safely relocate the animal to some nearby bushes. The possum was quickly released and scurried into the tall grass.

Short black sea bass and feasting possumShort black sea bass and feasting possum - image 2
Short black sea bass and feasting possum

Clams and Crabs After Dark - Kings County

On Sept. 5 at approximately 10:30 p.m., ECO Robert Kaufherr received a call regarding illegal clamming at Plum Beach. ECO Connor Dodge joined ECO Kaufherr to assist. After observing the clammers out in the water, the officers waited for the subjects in the parking lot adjacent to Plum Beach and stopped the individuals as they carried out their catch. The subjects had large bins and buckets filled with a mix of blue claw crabs and hard-shell clams. After sorting through the crabs, one group had a total of 92 blue claw crabs, with 27 undersized and six carrying eggs. Another group had a total of 33 blue claw crabs, with 11 undersized. The group also had 60 hard shell clams. A total of eight summonses were issued for taking shellfish from uncertified waters, possessing undersized blue claw crabs, and possessing crabs in spawn. All summonses are returnable to Kings County Court.

Solid Waste Is Not Agricultural Waste - Orange County

On Sept. 7, ECOs Jonathon Walraven and William Chomicki responded to a complaint of burning plastic in the village of Florida. When the ECOs arrived, they saw a large plume of smoke emanating from the back side of the property and drove over to investigate. After exiting their vehicle, an irate farmer confronted the officers, saying he could burn as much agricultural waste as he wanted. The two officers explained that he was entitled to burn his agricultural waste, but that being on a farm does not mean all waste qualifies as agricultural waste. Together, the ECOs inspected the blaze and discovered different types of metals, rubber, and plastics. With the farmer unwilling to concede his position, ECO Chomicki read verbatim the ECL section that excluded plastics from being designated as agricultural waste. The officers issued a ticket for unlawful open burning of solid waste, which will be heard in the Town of Warwick Court.

Illegal open burning of Solid Waste
Illegal open burning of Solid Waste

Snow in September? - Onondaga County

On Sept. 7, ECO Don Damrath responded to a site in Syracuse following a complaint of large quantities of Styrofoam escaping from a downtown construction project. Upon arrival, ECO Damrath found what looked like a snow event - large quantities of Styrofoam beads strewn over a three city-block area. ECO Damrath also found Styrofoam in the storm drains surrounding the two project sites. The construction work involved placing foam sheets onto the exterior of the building and then shaping the sheets for appearance and connection to the building. The contractor had not installed netting or other control measures, resulting in Styrofoam escaping into the environment. Joined at the scene by Lt. Dave McShane, ECO Damrath ordered the work to cease until the escaped waste Styrofoam was removed and appropriate control measures put in place. Officials for the companies involved were contacted and started cleanup of the material from sidewalks, curbs, and storm drains in the three-block radius around each building. Charges against the two companies are pending. As a result of this complaint, ECO Damrath is working with officials from the Onondaga County Water Environment Protection and Syracuse City Codes inspectors to come up with a preventative solution aimed at contractors, such as an ordinance requiring netting before permits are granted.

Styrofoam-filled Syracuse catch basins due to poor construction practices
Styrofoam-filled Syracuse catch basins due to poor construction practices

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