Kingsbury junkyard owner settles pollution case with state

Source: http://poststar.com, August 2, 2011
By: Lydia Wheeler

The state has reached a settlement with the owners of a Kingsbury junkyard and the owner of a company that crushed cars at the site over environmental damage caused by pollution from the junkyard operations, the state Attorney General’s Office announced Tuesday.

Under the settlement, James Marro, owner of East Side Used Auto Parts, and his company are both required to perform a complete pollution cleanup.

Marro and George Moore, owner of Northern Car Crushers, the company that crushed cars at the site, must also pay more than $330,000 in penalties and restitution to the state, according to the Attorney General’s Office.

“Illegal operations at this junkyard put the health and safety of the community at risk by repeatedly and recklessly polluting the environment,” said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in a press release. “This settlement ensures that the damage to the community is repaired, and those responsible are penalized for their unlawful actions. We are sending a clear message that polluters who disregard our state’s environmental protection laws and put New Yorkers in harm’s way will be held accountable.”

Although Moore directed a reporter to speak to his Albany-based lawyer Lawrence Schillinger, when asked to comment on settlement, he went on to complain about the state publicizing the case.

“It’s bad enough we’re getting extreme fines and everything for doing nothing, but that’s how they get their satisfaction, I guess,” he said.

Northern Car Crushers is based in Keeseville, Essex County.

Under the settlement terms, Schillinger said the company is not responsible for the cleanup of East Side Used Auto Parts property.

“Had we taken this matter to trial, we are confident that a jury would have found us blameless and without liability,” he said, in the prepared statement he e-mailed to the Post-Star on Tuesday afternoon.

“Northern Car Crushers only agreed to settle this matter by contributing a fraction toward the total cost of the settlement because doing so was less costly than continued litigation,” he wrote.

James Marro did not return calls to the Post-Star on Tuesday afternoon.

The junkyard East Side Used Auto Parts and Marro operated was located at 3614 Burgoyne Avenue in Kingsbury.

Northern Car Crushers served as an on-site contractor, crushing and handling vehicles and scrap metal.

The site borders a residential community on three sides and a public school on the fourth, state officials noted.

Beginning in 2003, East Side Used Auto Parts was repeatedly cited by the state Department of Environmental Conservation for mishandling waste at the site and illegally discharging harmful chemicals into the community’s air and water.

In addition, the state contends that Marro, Moore and Northern Car Crushers were responsible for discharges of oil at and around the site.

Residents who lived nearby routinely complained of headaches, nausea, breathing difficulties and loss of sleep due to the junkyard’s operations, the Attorney General’s Office’s press release states.

In 2009, the Attorney General’s Office obtained a court order halting all operations at the site, and East Side Used Auto Parts has since relocated to an industrial site on Route 149 in Kingsbury.

Schneiderman’s settlement, filed in state Supreme Court in Washington County, provides for the cleanup of all remaining pollution and nuisance problems associated with the junkyard, as well as for a substantial payment of penalties and restitution.

Kingsbury Supervisor Jim Lindsay said he does not think there is much remediation work on the former East Side Used Auto Parts property left to be done.

He did, however, say there are still a few dirt piles that need to be removed.

Lindsay called the settlement a win for town residents, especially those who live on the street behind the former junkyard.

“I guess it’s definitely a victory for the folks on Harrison Avenue. That place didn’t belong there to begin with,” he said about the junkyard.

Under the settlement:

* Within 30 days of the settlement, Marro must remove all remaining wastes, junk, debris, trash and other material from the site; thereafter Marro must conduct a full, timely investigation and comprehensive cleanup of soil and groundwater contamination at or near the site that was caused by the junkyard’s operations;

* Marro and Moore must pay penalties totaling $128,500 plus interest for violations of state air, water, vehicle dismantling and other environmental laws; however, if Marro fails to fully comply with their obligations under the settlement, they will be required to pay an additional $100,000 in penalties plus interest;

* Marro, and Moore and Northern Car Crushers must pay a total of $204,865 in reimbursements and related interest to the state for money it used from the state Environmental and Spill Compensation Fund to investigate oil discharges at and in the vicinity of the site; and

* A $150,000 lien against Marro’s assets will be established to ensure adequate funding for the cleanup.

The settlement announced Tuesday resolves two lawsuits brought by the Attorney General’s Office: A 2007 action brought by the Attorney General’s Oil Spill Unit against Marro and East Side Used Auto Parts, and Moore and Northern Car Crushers, for violations of the New York State Navigation Law; and a 2008 action brought by the Attorney General’s Environmental Protection Bureau against Marro and East Side Used Auto Parts for public nuisance and violations of the New York State Environmental Conservation Law.

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