Cascino indicted for Clermont dumping, tests show asbestos in Copake
HUDSON–For years environmental officials and local residents have intensely scrutinized Salvatore Cascino’s Copake Valley Farm on the eastern edge of Columbia County. But new charges leveled by the state this week against the Bronx-based waste hauler allege that his illegal waste disposal operations involve another site on the western side of the county in the Town of Clermont.
Mr. Cascino and his Bronx County waste-hauling business were criminally indicted April 12 on two violations of state Environmental Conservation Law for illegally dumping solid waste at property off Route 9G in Clermont.
The new charges are misdemeanors. Both charges against Mr. Cascino carry a maximum penalty of up to two years in prison and a $75,000 fine. Mr. Cascino pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Also at this week’s court proceedings with Judge Jonathan Nichols presiding the state Attorney General’s Office filed a separate action against Mr. Cascino, seeking to force him and his businesses–13 Lackawanna Properties and Copake Valley Farm–to comply with a July 2007 consent decree barring any dumping at his property on Lackawanna Road in Copake. Recent tests have shown high levels of asbestos among the materials dumped there.
The consent decree required Mr. Cascino to remove all the fill he had dumped in wetlands, construct barricades to prevent use of the bridge unlawfully constructed on the property, to pay civil penalties and fund an environmental benefit project.
A court-authorized search of Mr. Cascino’s Copake Valley Farm in September 2009 revealed that additional solid waste had been dumped there since 2007 in apparent violation of the consent decree and the 2006 temporary restraining order issued by Judge Nichols.
In June 2009, Mr. Cascino was found guilty of both civil and criminal contempt for violating that order, which prohibited all building, dumping and excavating on the property.
For the past 13 years, Mr. Cascino, a resident of Larchmont, has been amassing violations of federal, state and town law on his 300-acre property in Copake, but the charges related to Clermont caught observers of the case by surprise.
The sealed Grand Jury indictment on the new misdemeanors, which was opened in Columbia County Supreme Court Tuesday, was filed by State Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo. The indictment, one count of operating an unpermitted landfill and one count of fourth degree endangering the public health, safety, or the environment, alleges that between December 2008 and July 2009, Mr. Cascino and Bronx County Recycling, LLC, “recklessly disposed of more than 70 cubic yards of solid waste and petroleum” in Clermont without obtaining a permit from the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
DEC Investigator Jesse Paluch, who was at the dump site in Clermont, told The Columbia Paper that the amount of solid waste discovered in the 10 test holes dug at the site “far exceeded” the 70-cubic-yard threshold necessary for the class A misdemeanor charges, estimating that based on his findings, “hundreds or thousands of cubic yards of solid waste” was dumped there.
As a registered construction and debris processing facility, Mr. Cascino’s Bronx County Recycling, 475 Exterior Avenue in the Bronx, is permitted to accept only uncontaminated, rock, asphalt, dirt, and concrete and reprocess it for limited designated and permitted uses, said a press release from the AG’s Office.
Inv. Paluch said that in some cases the materials taken in by the facility are never processed and are trucked out and “thrown in a hole.” In other cases the materials are crushed into a very fine byproduct and given away as topsoil. At first, it looks like top soil, said the investigator, but once the elements get to it, carpet and metal fragments become visible and can become airborne, creating a hazard for anyone around it.
The location of the alleged Cascino dumping in Clermont was not revealed by the AG’s Office, but sources tell The Columbia Paper that the site is the former LaMunyan construction and demolition (c+d) landfill on Route 9G, south of the Clermont firehouse, now owned by contractor William Cole of B & T General Contracting, who was awarded the contract for renovation of the Clermont highway garage in October 2009.
Beginning in the 1980s “large quantities” of c+d waste “cocktailed with other hazardous substances” were dumped at the site, according to official minutes of the September 2005 Clermont Town Board meeting.
Through court action, the town stopped the landfill operation in 1988. Though PCBs were found, they were not at the level that triggered placing the site on the state Superfund list. But the DEC did recommend that the landfill be closed, covered, equipped with surface water drainage control and monitored regularly through test wells and air sampling. State officials now believe none of the recommended work was completed.
An April 5, 2005 news story in The Independent newspaper reported that Clermont signed off on its $2.4 million judgment against Carl LaMunyan, who was found guilty of operating an illegal waste dump on the Route 9G site in 1989. The settlement was a cash payment of $10,000 for the town. The minutes of the Town Board’s April 4, 2005 meeting report that then Town Attorney Albert Trezza “brought a check in that amount from William Cole, who is purchasing the property.”
Clermont Supervisor Ray Staats did not return calls for comment about the matter.
Attempts to reach Mr. Cole at his Red Hook home and business were unsuccessful. The numbers have apparently been disconnected.
DEC Investigator Paluch declined to identify the owner of the Clermont dump site, but the investigator said the owner told him that he authorized Mr. Cascino to truck clean fill.
Mr. Cascino appealed his contempt convictions, and Victor Meyers, who represents the Town of Copake in all Cascino matters, said this week that the appeal was argued in appellate court March 22, with a decision expected next month.
The September 2009 search by the DEC at the Cascino property in Copake turned up elevated levels of friable asbestos, a hazardous air pollutant regulated by the DEC. A laboratory analysis of the c+d sample taken from the Copake site found that the debris contained about 2.2% of asbestos by weight, “more than twice the limit to be categorized as asbestos waste,” according to a Memorandum of Law submitted to the court by the AG’s Office.
Also in 2009, the AG’s Office filed a civil suit against Mr. Cascino and his companies for illegal waste disposal in another unpermitted facility in Dover Plains in Dutchess County. Criminal citations were also issued to Mr. Cascino’s employees for dumping in that case. The civil suit and the charges are still pending in that matter.
Mr. Cascino sat quietly next to his attorney Dennis Schlenker during the April 12 proceedings.
Assistant Attorney General James Woods gave a long list of reasons why $10,000 bail should be set for Mr. Cascino, calling him a flight risk with “ample resources.” Mr. Woods also spoke of Mr. Cascino’s “utter disregard” for the law.
Mr. Schlenker told the judge that Mr. Cascino was a 70-year-old man and a lifelong resident of Larchmont, who has 3 children and 11 grandchildren; that he contributes to his church, has minor health problems, owns property in Copake and Dover Plains and that there is “no incentive that he would flee.” Besides that, Mr. Cascino is “a good citizen” who arrives at court early, the attorney said, noting “bail is superfluous.”
Judge Nichols released Mr. Cascino on his own recognizance allowing his attorney to drive him to the Livingston State Police barracks for processing on the charges.
Pre-trial hearings in the case were set for September 9, with the trial getting underway October 4.
The investigation was initiated by DEC Police Investigator Jesse Paluch, Bureau of Environmental Crimes Investigation. The Attorney General’s Office joined the investigation in September 2008, which included the execution of search warrants at the Clermont and Copake locations in September 2009.
In a statement released late Tuesday, Assemblyman Marc Molinaro (R-103rd) and Senator Steve Saland (R-41st) applauded the attorney general’s actions in the Cascino case. Mr. Molinaro said that he and Senator Saland have been working with Copake and the DEC “to ensure that those who violate New York State’s environmental laws and local land use policies are held accountable.”
Sen. Saland said that he and Assemblyman Molinaro “have been in frequent contact with state agencies, as well as the office of the Attorney General to pursue a resolution to this matter. The persistent and collaborative effort of local and state officials has led to this criminal indictment that will hopefully put an end to years of violations and ensure the protection of the health and safety of local residents.”
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