DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officer Highlights

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DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officer Highlights

ECO Actions for Late January to Early February

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 2018, the 288 ECOs across the state responded to 21,668 calls and worked on cases that resulted in 20,665 tickets or arrests for crimes ranging from deer poaching to solid waste dumping, 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 DEC 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:

Black Sea Bass and Blood Clams - Queens and Kings Counties
On Jan. 29, ECOs Joshua Harvey and Matthew Thibodeau conducted fish market checks in Queens County and found one market selling illegal blood clams and another selling undersized black sea bass. The ECOs seized 50 undersized black sea bass and the clams and issued summonses to the two markets. The next day, ECOs Zachary Kochanowski and Jacob Jankowski conducted fish market checks in Kings County. Once again, undersized black sea bass were found at a retail market and tickets were issued.

Two ECOs standing in front of an ECO vehicle with fish and clams on the ground between them.
ECOs Harvey and Thibodeau with illegal Black
Sea Bass and Blood Clams
That is Not Water - Richmond County
On Feb. 1, ECO Taylor Della Rocco worked with DEC Inspector Moses Ajoku to check retail gas facilities in Richmond County. Facilities with petroleum bulk storage tanks are highly regulated by DEC and frequent inspections are required. At one gas station, a supply valve was dripping petroleum and the sensor meant to detect any leaks was improperly placed, failing to trigger an alarm. This inspection detected the leak before it could cause any damage to the environment. The facility representative claimed the liquid in the runoff bucket was "water." However, after performing a test using a polypropylene oil absorbent pad, the liquid was clearly found to be petroleum and not water. A Notice of Violation was issued to the retail gas station.

An ECO kneeling on the ground next to a large open supply valve, testing the liquid in the valve.
ECO Della Rocco with the oil pad used to test the liquid
The Bridge Fights Back - Rockland County
On Feb. 6, ECO Corey Hornicek was on patrol in the Village of Hillburn when he came across a Ramapo Police Officer blocking a road. ECO Hornicek was advised that a garbage truck had hit the bridge ahead and was leaking hydraulic fluid and fuel. The truck driver had left the truck's front dumpster forks in the air and tried to traverse a suspended bridge. The forks struck part of the bridge and were ripped from the truck, damaging the hydraulic system on the truck and puncturing the passenger fuel tank. DEC spills staff also responded and New York State Police conducted a thorough inspection of the truck. The roadway was cleaned up by a professional environmental response company. ECO Hornicek issued a ticket for depositing a noisome or unwholesome substance on a public highway, returnable to the Village of Hillburn Court.

View of a road on a bridge with a large piece of garbage truck equipment in the middle of the road.
The picker forks and spilled fluids on the roadway
Northern Snakehead a "No, No" - Kings County
On Feb. 7, ECOs Ryan Kelley and Jacob Jankowski received a complaint that a supermarket in Kings County was offering live Northern Snakehead fish for sale. Northern Snakehead are native to Africa and Asia and are considered an invasive species in the United States. The fish is a top predator in the aquatic food chain and is very disruptive to natural ecosystems. In New York State, it is illegal to sell or transport any species of live snakeheads and snakeheads found in the wild must immediately be euthanized. Upon arrival, the ECOs found the supermarket to be in possession of 14 Northern Snakehead for sale at $9.99/lb. A total of 25 pounds of fish were seized and euthanized. The manager of the supermarket was educated on the invasive aquatic species laws and two summonses were issued for possession of Northern Snakehead and illegal commercialization of fish. For more information about the Northern Snakehead, visit DEC's website.

A pile of large fish on the back of a pick up truck.
Northern Snakeheads seized from the market
A Friend's Load of Solid Waste Is Another Friend's Folly - Ulster and Greene Counties
On Feb. 8, ECO Lucas Palmateer was patrolling in the Town of Saugerties when he observed a white pickup truck transporting an uncovered load of solid waste. It included old cabinets, waste wood, and plastic. He stopped the truck and the driver, a Cairo resident, told ECO Palmateer that he was doing a favor for a friend who lives in Kingston by transporting the waste to the Greene County Transfer Station in Catskill. The driver was issued a ticket for transporting an uncovered load of solid waste, returnable to the Saugerties Town Court. Several days later, ECO Mike Arp received an illegal dumping complaint in the Town of Cairo. He found a pile of debris that sounded very similar to the waste ECO Palmateer encountered. An inspection of the pile produced a receipt with a name from an individual who lived in Kingston. He interviewed the individual and learned that the waste had been given to a friend for disposal at the Greene County Transfer Station. Based on photos taken by ECO Palmateer, ECO Arp was able to determine that the waste piles were from the same case. ECO Arp interviewed the driver of the truck again and he admitted to dumping the debris on the side of the road in Cairo instead of bringing it to the dump as promised. He was issued another ticket, this time for unlawful disposal of solid waste returnable to Cairo Town Court.

Dog Caught in Illegal Cable Restraint - Niagara County
On Feb. 10, ECO Kevin Holzle received a call reporting that a dog had been caught in a snare in the town of Hartland. Fortunately, the dog was uninjured and was safely released by the owner. ECOs Holzle and George Scheer met with the complainant and found three more illegal cable restraints among the foothold traps found along a trapline. The foothold traps were not properly labeled with the owner's name, address, or trapping license number. Through interviews of local residents, the ECOs were able to track down the person responsible for setting the traps. The trapper admitted to using the cable restraints and not legibly labeling his traps and was charged accordingly. The case will be handled in Hartland Town Court in March.

Revolutionary War Burial Site Unearthed - Warren County
On Feb, 14, Lt. Ben Bramlage met with members of state and local agencies, the Warren County Sheriff's Office, and property owners and their attorney concerning the site of a burial ground in Lake George Village that had been unearthed during a private construction project. The site had not been previously known as a Revolutionary War grave site, and construction was halted after workers found human remains. Lt. Bramlage worked as a liaison between DEC, state and local agencies, and the owners as the group discussed access issues and a work plan for the property. The New York State Museum's team of archeologists, headed by Lisa Anderson, Curator of Bioarchaeology, is leading the project and coordinating the agencies and volunteers - including DEC archeologists Chuck Vandrei, Dave Witt, and Kristy Primeau, and DEC staff Andrew Breedlove and Gary McPherson - in excavating and cataloging the remains and chronicling the on-site work. DEC's Vandrei identified a button found on the site as belonging to a Revolutionary War-era military uniform coat from the First Pennsylvania Battalion. The remains were removed by the end of the following day for transportation to the State Museum for further examination. During the project, ECOs assisted the Warren County Sheriff's Office with maintaining security of the site, which received national media attention.

Person standing over sifter at excavation site.
A volunteer sifting through materials at the site

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Basil Seggos, Commissioner

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