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For Release: Thursday, July 9, 2020

DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officer Highlights

Recent ECO Actions

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 2019, the 288 ECOs across the state responded to 25,704 calls and worked on cases that resulted in 16,855 tickets or arrests for crimes ranging from deer poaching to solid waste dumping, illegal mining, the black market pet trade, and excessive emissions violations.

Two-thousand-and-twenty marks 50 years for DEC and 140 Years for New York's Conservation Police Officers. In 1880, the first eight Game Protectors proudly began serving to protect the natural resources and people of New York State.

"From Montauk Point and 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 DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. "Our ECOs have worked arduous hours, both deep in our remote wildernesses and in the tight confines of our urban landscapes, for far longer than the 50 years since DEC was created. These officers are critical to achieving DEC's mission to protect and enhance our environment and I am confident they will continue this important mission for the next 50 years and beyond."

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).

Empty Nest - Westchester County
On June 4, ECO Chloe Swansen responded to a call about a baby hawk that appeared to have fallen out of its nest. Upon arrival, ECO Swansen located the hawk on a nearby property and identified it as a Red-tailed hawk fledgling. The ECO found no visible signs of injury and placed the hawk in a safe visible area to see if a parent hawk would return to feed or care for the bird. After waiting without seeing any other hawks in the area, ECO Swansen brought the baby hawk to a rehabilitation center to ensure its survival. She transferred the Red-tailed hawk to the Friends of the Feathered and Furry Wildlife Center where, upon initial inspection, they found larvae hatched in the bird's ears. The hawk is expected to make a full recovery for release to the wild.

ECO holding a hawk
ECO Swansen with Red-tailed hawk fledgling

Fishing Tourney Injury - Sullivan County
On June 20, while patrolling the White Lake area in the town of Bethel, ECO Mary Grose observed a bass fishing tournament underway with a top prize of $1,500. ECO Grose observed a man who appeared to have an injury exiting the boat ramp. The ECO responded and evaluated the fisherman who had a fishing lure stuck in his left leg. The Officer then called EMS to help address the injury and help the angler get back out on the water to continue fishing.

Fawn Rescue - Otsego County
On July 1, ECO Russell Fetterman received a call reporting a fawn trapped in a drainage canal in the city of Oneonta. ECO Fetterman contacted Wildlife Response Team member ECO Dustin Osborne for assistance. The ECOs located the fawn trapped in an eight-foot drainage canal running through Oneonta. The animal was unable to get out of the canal and return to its mother. Retired Oneonta Police Officer Steven Havens arrived on scene to assist the ECOs rescuing the fawn. The Officers worked together and used a tarp to wrangle the fawn in the drainage before carrying it out and safely returning it to its mother.

small fawn in a deep drainage canal with some water in it
Fawn trapped in Oneonta canal

Closed Case: Illegal Disposal of Solid Waste - Ulster County
An Illegal Disposal of Solid Waste case in Ulster County recently concluded after all responsible parties were brought to justice. In May 2017, DEC Solid Waste Task Force members observed trucks disposing waste at a residence in the town of Rochester. ECOs followed dump trucks filled with debris from an illegal construction and demolition processing facility on Long Island, and witnessed the trucks dumping large quantities at a private residence. ECOs pulled the trucks over and called in Region 3 Bureau of Environmental Crimes Investigators (BECI) and staff from DEC's Division of Materials Management (DMM) to assist. While DMM staff collected samples from the debris piles, the ECOs searched the premises, conducted interviews, and arrested the dump truck drivers and charged them with Unlawful Disposal of Solid Waste in excess of 10 cubic yards, a Class B misdemeanor. All drivers later pleaded guilty to lesser charges and each paid a $1,500 fine.

Environmental sample results discovered the debris contained significant amounts of coal ash and slag, which is only permitted at licensed landfills. In addition, chemical analysis showed the presence of acutely hazardous substances that violated Environmental Conservation Law. Ultimately, the trucking company involved, Modern Leasing Inc., operating as Dump Masters Services, was charged with Endangering Public Health, Safety and the Environment, a felony, and multiple misdemeanor counts of Unlawful Disposal of Solid Waste in excess of 70 cubic yards and 10 cubic yards. Modern Leasing Inc., recently pleaded guilty to the felony charge and two counts of Unlawful Disposal of Solid Waste and was ordered to pay the maximum fine for each, totaling $112,500.

large pile of debris on the edge of the woods
Solid Waste illegally dumped on private property

Closed Case: Tampering with Diesel Emissions - Schoharie County
In April 2020, investigators and staff from DEC's Division of Air initiated an investigation into an air quality complaint originating from an online ad listing a 2010 Ford F350 XLT complete with aftermarket devices alleged to render the emissions equipment inoperable. DEC Bureau of Environmental Crimes investigators posed as potential buyers and set up a time with the seller to inspect the vehicle. The Officers found obvious signs of tampering, as the diesel particulate filter had been removed and the exhaust had been straight piped. The owner explained that he used an aftermarket tuner to bypass any system alerts due to the missing equipment. This tuner would allow the vehicle to continue to operate without a check engine light or going into a limp/default mode. Investigators charged the man with offering a vehicle for sale with non-compliant vehicle emission equipment, an unclassified misdemeanor, and for operating a diesel vehicle with tampered vehicle emission equipment, a violation. The defendant submitted the vehicle for a follow-up inspection and provided paperwork reflecting $2,500 in repair work to restore the truck to the original manufactured specifications. The defendant pleaded guilty to the violation of operating a diesel vehicle with tampered equipment, receiving a $150 fine plus $75 surcharge.

Screen grab from a website selling a truck
Vehicle listed for sale with tampering devices

Closed Case: Abandoned Oil Well Investigation - Steuben County
Earlier this year, an investigation conducted by DEC BECI investigators and ECOs concluded in an Order on Consent for multiple violations of DEC's oil and gas well regulations by a natural gas exploration and production company based in Shinglehouse, Pennsylvania. The case began after investigators and officers conducted an inspection at multiple crude oil wells owned and operated by Plants and Goodwin Inc. DEC cited 19 offenses at seven different wells for violations of state regulations relating to oil well operations and reporting. The investigation also revealed an offense of the State Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit issued to Plants and Goodwin Inc. DEC issued an Order on Consent wherein the responsible party was brought into compliance with a $5,000 penalty.

Rusty oil well in the woods
Oil well in Steuben County reported to be in operation
but proven to be non-operational

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