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For Release: Wednesday, September 13, 2017

DEC Environmental Conservation Officer Highlights

ECO Actions for Late August to Early September

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

In 2016, the 286 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.

"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:

First Day a Good Day to Catch Some Bad Guys - Dutchess County

On Aug. 28, ECOs Bob Hodor and Kevin Wamsley assisted ECO Deo Read on an illegal construction and demolition (C&D) debris dumping case in the town of Hyde Park. It was ECO Wamsley's first day in the field, having just graduated from the 21st Basic Academy on Aug. 25. The ECOs were conducting surveillance in the dark at around 4:15 a.m., when they spotted two trucks driving to a local gun club. The ECOs witnessed non-exempt materials and dirty fill dumped on the property. A total of seven summons were issued before 7 a.m., the first tickets written by a recent graduate.

mounts of dirty on green lawn
Illegally dumped fill at a local gun club

Multi-Agency Man Hunt - Sullivan County

On Aug. 28, Sullivan County 911 contacted DEC ECOs requesting assistance for a domestic dispute with a handgun who had fled into the woods in Lumberland. On his first day working in the field after completing the 28-week ECO police academy, ECO Corey Hornicek was riding along with ECO Tom Koepf when the ECOs received the call. ECO Travis McNamara was already working with State Police and their K-9 unit clearing a section of woods. ECOs Koepf and Hornicek interviewed neighbors and passing vehicles. Special Operation Group (SOG) members ECOs Chris Lattimer and Claude Stephens arrived at the scene, and a State Police Aviation Unit helicopter was called into service. A radio transmission stated that the suspect was spotted less than a mile away, entering a wooded area at the end of a dead end road. ECOs and State Police officers rushed to join a Lumberland Constable at the site and the officers pushed into the woods. ECO Lattimer spotted the suspect and gave a command to surrender. The suspect turned around and continued walking away until he noticed a line of officers closing in on him. The suspect was taken into custody by the State Police and charged with Second Degree Burglary, two counts of Criminal Contempt, and Aggravated Harassment.

A Dirty Scheme - Putnam County

In May 2017, a homeowner in the town of Kent responded to an ad on Craigslist for "free fill" and received several tons of non-exempt fill (C&D debris made to look like clean fill). After an investigation by ECO Anthony Drahms and DEC Materials Management, the fill was traced back to a nearby site, which received and processed C&D debris without a permit. On Aug. 28, ECOs Dustin Dainack, Anthony Drahms, and Chloe Swansen visited the site and issued two summonses for Unlawful Disposal of Solid Waste for the non-exempt fill dumped at the complainant's property and for Receiving, Treating and Processing C&D Debris Without a Permit. All charges are pending in Town of Kent Court.

A crane dumping dirt
An industrial screener sifts rock and dirt mixed with construction
and demolition debris into unrecognizable fill material

Bonafide Bonfire Averted - Delaware County

On Aug. 29, ECO Nate Doig interviewed a man about a monstrous pile of construction and demolition debris that had accumulated on his property in the town of Franklin. The landowner stated that he had accepted the material, which included treated lumber, insulation, mattresses, furniture, electronic devices, and a fiberglass boat, and planned to hold a festive bonfire over the Labor Day weekend holiday. ECO Doig explained that accepting 100 cubic yards of material or more requires a solid waste permit from DEC, and that under no circumstances could the materials be burned. The officer, assisted by ECO George Wilber and John Weidman from DEC's Division of Materials Management, conducted a thorough investigation, including tracking all of the dumped material back to the source. The landowner was charged with a Class A misdemeanor for Illegal Disposal of Greater Than 70 yards of Solid Waste and Operating a Solid Waste Management Facility Without a Permit. The three individuals who contributed to the pile were area contractors and charged with the Illegal Disposal of Solid Waste.

Two ECO on a pile of construction debris
ECOs with the large pile of construction debris (photo)
Pile of construction debris

Busy First Week for Academy Graduates - Suffolk County

On Aug. 30, ECOs Tim Fay and Robert McCabe performed a routine regulatory check of a commercial seafood dealer in the town of Brookhaven. During the inspection, the ECOs checked fish, shellfish, crabs, and lobster for proper documentation, tagging, and size limits. While inspecting the contents of a walk-in freezer, ECO McCabe discovered six striped bass of illegal size and three striped bass without commercial tags. The commercial slot size for striped bass is between 28 to 38 inches and all commercially sold striped bass are required to be tagged. The illegal fish were seized and the owner was issued tickets for the violations.

On Sept. 2, ECOs Kaitlin Grady and Robert Kaufherr were checking boats coming in to the Port Jefferson boat ramp. One shellfishing vessel had seven bags of oysters on board. The ECOs checked the first bag of oysters, which contained a large amount of undersized oysters. ECOs Kyle Bevis and Justanna Bohling arrived to help check an additional six bags, which all contained a high percentage of undersized oysters. The fishermen were issued tickets and the oysters were confiscated and returned to the water. Both ECO McCabe and Kaufherr graduated from DEC's 21st Basic Academy on Aug. 25.

Officer standing in the back of a table full of fish
ECO McCabe with some of the illegally possessed striped bass

Carnage on the Water - Suffolk County
On Aug. 31, ECOs from the Marine Enforcement Unit were patrolling Montauk Harbor when they spotted a vessel whose crew was throwing fish overboard. As they approached the party charter vessel, ECOs ordered the fishermen to stop. The orders were ignored in an attempt to avoid prosecution under Environmental Conservation Law. ECOs estimate that hundreds of pounds of illegal Black Sea Bass, Fluke, and Scup were dumped into the harbor. At the dock, ECOs inspected the fishermen as they left the boat. A total of eight tickets and 22 warnings for ECL violations were issued, including Possession of Undersize Black Sea Bass, Possession of Undersized Summer Flounder, Possession of over-the-limit Black Sea Bass, Possession of over-the-limit Scup, Failure to Stop Dumping Upon Command, and Incomplete Vessel Trip Report. Once the fishermen were off the boat, additional ECOs assisted to recover as many fish from the water as possible. An inspection of the vessel resulted in the discovery of an additional 500 fish and 17 coolers that had been abandoned on the boat. The abandoned fish that could be saved were donated to a Long Island mission. The tickets have an appearance date in East Hampton Town Court in October.

Large pile of fish on the dock
Hundreds of pounds of illegal fish fill the coolers and the dock in
East Hampton
5 ECOs with 6 coolers full of fish

Bald Eagle Rescue - Jefferson County

On Sept. 1, ECO Peter Jackson was notified of an injured bald eagle in the town of Rodman. The complainant informed ECO Jackson that the eagle had been seen feeding near a dear carcass along State Rt. 177 and was unable to fly. Jackson arrived in the area where the eagle was last seen and followed tracks to where it had entered the woods. After a few minutes of searching, he spotted the eagle hunkered down in some tall grass. The eagle attempted to evade the officer but was eventually caught and wrapped in a blanket. ECO Jackson transported the injured eagle to a wildlife rehabilitator who cared for the raptor overnight. It was later transported to a specialist in Greene County for further care.

Officer holding an injured eagle
ECO Jackson with the injured bald eagle

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

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