Michael Jones And His Company, Coast Transportation And Recycling, LLC, Plead Guilty To Environmental Law Crimes; Will Pay $87,500 In Fines
Schneiderman: Those Who Jeopardize The Safety Of New York’s Vital Waterways Will Be Held Accountable
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced the conviction of Michael Jones, 44, of Skaneateles, and his company, Coast Transportation and Recycling, LLC (Coast), for environmental law crimes related to discharging polluted water into Ley Creek and failing to obtain appropriate state regulatory permits.
Today, before the Honorable Anthony F. Aloi, Coast pleaded guilty to one count of Environmental Conservation Law Section 71-1933(3)(a)(i), a Class E felony, for knowingly discharging pollutants without first obtaining a New York State Pollution Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) Permit. Jones pleaded guilty to two counts of Environmental Conservation Law (ECL) Section 71-2711(3) and one count of ECL Section 71-2703(2)(c)(i), Class A misdemeanors, for illegally discharging liquid containing hazardous substances and for storing petroleum-contaminated soil on the Coast property.
“We will continue working to safeguard New York’s vital waterways from harmful pollution,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Guarding our state’s natural resources is critical to protecting both the health of New Yorkers and local economies, and those who jeopardize this will pay the price.”
Today’s convictions are the result of an investigation conducted by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
“As this defendant showed a callous disregard for the health and safety of Ley Creek and it’s residents, this conviction sends a strong and clear message that this behavior will not be tolerated in New York State,” said DEC Commissioner Seggos. “I applaud the work of our Environmental Conservation Officers and the Attorney General’s office in pursuing this case and ensuring that the state's laws are enforced and our environment is protected.”
In July 2016, an Onondaga County Grand Jury charged Jones and Coast, an automobile salvage and scrap recycling facility located at 15 Dippold Avenue in the Town of Salina, in a 10-count indictment with violations of the New York State Environmental Conservation Law.
According to court filings and statements made by the prosecutor, DEC’s investigation revealed that in February 2010, two underground storage tanks were removed from the Coast facility. These tanks, which contained fuel oil, had leaked and contaminated the surrounding soil. More than 500 tons of petroleum contaminated soil (“PCS”) was ultimately excavated from the areas surrounding the underground storage tanks and stored on Coast’s property. The PCS was not removed from the Coast facility until October 2014, and neither Coast nor Jones ever applied for or obtained the necessary permit. The ECL and DEC regulations allow the temporary storage of PCS on site, but only for a period of 60 days. Storage of PCS for longer than 60 days constitutes the operation of a solid waste management facility and requires a permit issued by DEC. Solid waste management facilities are subject to strict operational and closure requirements to avoid the adverse impacts to public health and the environment associated with solid waste.
Also according to statements made by the prosecutor, DEC’s investigation further revealed that on May 15 and 19, 2011, liquid runoff from the soil pile flowed across the Coast property and into a storm water drain on Dippold Avenue, which ultimately discharged into a tributary of Ley Creek. Laboratory testing by DEC revealed that the liquid flowing into the storm water drain contained the hazardous substances benzene, toluene, ethyl-benzene, and xylene.
Additionally, on September 18, 2012, Jones directed a Coast employee to set up and operate an electric pump to discharge storm water that had accumulated in the Coast parking lot into another storm water drain, which also ultimately discharged into a tributary of Ley Creek. Laboratory testing by DEC revealed that this storm water contained motor oil. Jones and Coast discharged the oil laden storm water without having obtained a SPDES permit or having a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan in place, both of which are required by the ECL.
The DEC previously filed an administrative enforcement proceeding against both Jones and Coast in June 2011, related to improper dismantling of vehicles at the yard. An Administrative Law Judge found that both Jones and Coast had failed to conduct proper “fluid draining, removal and collection activities” at the Coast facility and had intentionally released fluids and discharged “petroleum onto the ground at the facility.” Jones and Coast were assessed a civil penalty of thirty thousand dollars ($30,000).
Both defendants are scheduled to be sentenced on January 24, 2017. Coast will be sentenced to an unconditional discharge; Jones will be sentenced to three years’ probation and will pay a fine of $87,500.
The Attorney General thanks the DEC for their assistance in this investigation.
Also assisting in the investigation was Investigator Joel Cordone, Supervising Investigator Richard Doyle and Deputy Chief Investigator Antoine Karam. The Attorney General’s Investigations Division is led by Chief Dominick Zarrella.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Andrew Tarkowski with the assistance of Assistant Attorney General Hugh L. McLean of the Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau. The Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau is led by Bureau Chief Gary Fishman and Deputy Bureau Chief Stephanie Swenton.
If you witness an environmental crime, contact the NYSDEC 24-hour Poacher and Polluter hotline at 1-844-DEC-ECOS (1-844-332-3267).