COPAKE—Salvatore Cascino got a letter late last week saying he is in trouble with the state attorney general… again.
And this week he is back in state Supreme Court trying to prove why he shouldn’t be held in contempt of court.
Mr. Cascino, who just turned 74, is a convicted scofflaw who lives in Larchmont and owns 300 acres along the east side of Route 22, a place he calls Copake Valley Farm.
For the past 16 years, Mr. Cascino has racked up violations of federal, state and town laws there for illegal dumping, and for building and excavating without proper permits.
Assistant Attorney General Michael J. Meyers with the Attorney General’s Environmental Protection Bureau wrote in a December 6 letter that Mr. Cascino is in violation of a June 2012 settlement agreement with the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
Before taking enforcement action in court, says the letter, the state is giving Mr. Cascino a chance to resolve his violations “by entering into a stipulation that would require the performance of certain remedial actions and the payment of a penalty.”
He also must remove illegally dumped fill in the area of his illegally built steel bridge like he was supposed to in the first place.
On behalf of his facility, Bronx County Recycling, Mr. Cascino pleaded guilty in 2012 to felony filling of false reports with the DEC about dumping solid waste at “unlicensed disposal facilities,” including his Copake property.
The settlement agreement restricted the type of material Mr. Cascino could bring onto the property to “uncontaminated” and “recognizable.” The agreement allowed Mr. Cascino to bring in construction and demolition (c+d) debris that is not commingled or contaminated with petroleum, hazardous or industrial waste. Allowable material has to be recognizable visually and cannot be “pulverized” by means of crushing grinding, chipping or shredding. Bronx County Recycling typically handled c+d that was contaminated, unrecognizable and/or pulverized, according to the letter. The agreement was drafted “to prevent disposal of this type of material on the Copake property.”
Yet, Mr. Cascino did subsequently bring forbidden material “as much as 9,650 cubic yards during the first five months of 2013 onto the Copake property,” says the AG’s letter.
On May 14, both Copake Zoning Enforcement Officer Edward Ferrratto and DEC Investigator Jesse Paluch witnessed the dumping of the material by Mr. Cascino’s trucks. The material came from Bronx County Recycling, now called, New York Recycling.
The officials could see that the material was finely pulverized c+d and subsequent tests concluded that it was “unrecognizable and contaminated” c+d. Because the material constituted solid waste under DEC regulations, Mr. Cascino is now not only in violation of the settlement agreement, but is also breaking another Environmental Conservation Law—the unlawful disposal of solid waste.
The AG noted in the letter that the May 14 dumping incident was not a one-time occurrence. Two truck drivers who worked for Mr. Cascino, Henry Wright and Douglas Dixon, both of whom appeared in court Tuesday, December 10, testified about their frequent trips from New York Recycling, Mr. Cascino’s former company, to Mr. Cascino’s property in Copake.
Mr. Dixon testified that he drove a Kenworth tri-axle tractor trailer with an 118,000 pound (30 cubic yard) capacity loaded with debris from the Bronx to Copake, five days a week, twice a day over a period of three or four months at Mr. Cascino’s direction. Mr. Dixon said he was paid $100 per load, and sometimes would bring in one load on Saturdays.
Mr. Wright said he had been driving truck for Mr. Cascino for 3½ years and had not only brought in materials at the same rate from the Bronx, but also from Dover Plains and Waterbury, CT.
The AG’s letter notes the documentation of 367 loads totaling 9,650 cubic yards over a five-month period from January through May of this year.
Also under the prior settlement agreement, Mr. Cascino was supposed to remove unlawfully dumped fill in the wetlands near the illegally constructed steel bridge over the Noster Kill, a protected trout stream.
In December 2012, Judge Jonathan Nichols had also issued an order requiring the removal of 150,000 cubic yards of fill dumped there by Mr. Cascino in violation of town regulations.
Mr. Cascino was also supposed to have submitted plans to the DEC for removal of the bridge and the fill a year ago. Deadlines have passed and no plans have been submitted.
The AG now gives Mr. Cascino 30 days to submit the bridge removal plan and 60 days to submit the fill removal plan.
Mr. Cascino has 14 days or until December 20 to let the AG know if he is amenable to the resolution of these matters or the offer will be rescinded. The letter says the state reserves its rights to “take enforcement action” such as commencing a new civil action and moving for contempt.
Meanwhile, Mr. Cascino is back in state Supreme Court at the temporary Columbia County Courthouse in Claverack this week.
His attorney, Brian Gardner, is defending Mr. Cascino on two orders to show cause why he should not be held in contempt of court based on motions filed by the Town of Copake alleging Mr. Cascino continued illegal building and dumping on his Copake property.
The case, which resumed December 9, is the continuation of July 31 and August 8 proceedings in which Acting State Supreme Court Judge Nichols is hearing evidence about Mr. Cascino’s defiance of a restraining order issued in 2009.
Mr. Cascino was found guilty of both civil and criminal contempt in 2009. And the stop work orders and contempt motions just keep on coming.
Victor Meyers, Copake’s attorney on Cascino-related matters, told The Columbia Paper this week that on behalf of the town, he has already filed new contempt motions in connection with Mr. Cascino’s recent construction without permits of three concrete-block buildings on his Copake property and is working on another in regard to a newly-dug trench Mr. Ferratto recently encountered on the property. Mr. Cascino had called Mr. Ferratto to the property last week to show him that he had disassembled a stone wall he was ordered by the court to remove several years ago.
To contact Diane Valden email