Summons to scofflaw includes millions in fines
COPAKE—Salvatore Cascino may be feeling a bit lighter in the wallet if he is forced to pay all the civil penalties the Department of Environmental Conservation has in mind for his latest snub of the law.
Mr. Cascino, 74, a convicted scofflaw who has a 16-year history of violations of federal, state and town laws for illegal dumping and failure to get permits for building and excavating, was served with legal papers Monday, April 7 to let him know the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is suing him for a violation of a 2012 consent order and continued dumping on his 300-acre Copake property.
State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman is representing the DEC.
The 14-page summons and verified complaint filed in State Supreme Court, Columbia County, March 27, says this is the third time in seven years that the state has taken civil enforcement action against Mr. Cascino and his companies, Copake Valley Farm, LLC, and 13 Lackawanna Properties, LLC, for “unlawfully disposing of waste material brought up from a Bronx facility to the Copake property.”
These most recent violations took place on “numerous occasions during 2013” in noncompliance with a 2012 DEC administrative order on consent that limited the type of material Mr. Cascino could bring on the site.
The DEC’s suit chronicles pre-2012 violations and legal actions including:
•2003, fill dumped in wetlands without DEC approval
•2006, solid waste dumped at the site, a new steel bridge constructed over the Noster Kill (a protected trout stream), fill dumped in a second wetlands area, construction of a new dirt road that required more fill in the wetlands, none of which was authorized by DEC
•July 2006, Copake lawsuit for illegal dumping at the site, building of the bridge and road in violation of town zoning ordinances
•2007, DEC action for wetlands, stream protection, stormwater discharge and solid waste violations at the site in 2006
•2007 consent decree ordered Mr. Cascino to remove all fill unlawfully dumped in wetlands and where the bridge was illegally built over the stream, subsequent court order in the town’s case required Mr. Cascino to remove the bridge and related fill, all of which he has failed to do
•September 2009, attorney general and DEC investigation found processed construction and demolition (c+d) debris dumped at the site with contained 2.2% asbestos by weight
•April 2010, Mr. Cascino complied with a consent decree to dispose of the asbestos at a facility permitted to accept such waste
•June 2012, Mr. Cascino, on behalf of his company Bronx County Recycling, LLC, pleaded guilty to a criminal charge of felony first degree offering a false instrument for filing for filing false reports with DEC concerning the disposal of solid waste at unlicensed disposal facilities, including at the Copake site.
DEC had discovered upon inspection that the Bronx facility had accepted and processed c+d waste together with unauthorized wastes, the composition of the processed comingled materials were unrecognizable to the naked eye.
In conjunction with his criminal plea and to resolve these solid waste violations, Mr. Cascino entered into a June 25, 2012 order on consent, which he subsequently violated
Beginning in January 2013 and continuing until the present, Mr. Cascino ordered truck drivers to haul material from the Bronx facility to the Copake site in violation of the consent order.
During the Town of Copake’s contempt hearing in December 2013 before Judge Jonathan Nichols, two truck drivers working for Mr. Cascino, estimated that three trucks made two trips a day, five days a week, hauling 20 to 30 cubic yards of waste per trip for about the first six-months of 2013.
DEC Investigator Jesse Paluch testified that the material he saw was “very fine” in texture and was contaminated with non-exempt fill, including metal, wire, plastic, piping and adulterated wood.
The material, which was analyzed by the DEC and found to contain “unrecognizable, contaminated and pulverized c+d debris” which was therefore prohibited material under the 2012 consent order
In December 2013, the DEC wrote to Mr. Cascino giving him 14 days to resolve the violations, but never received a response.
The judgment sought against Mr. Cascino in the new DEC suit, is for the court to issue an injunction preventing Mr. Cascino from dumping any more forbidden material at the Copake site and that he be required to remove all such materials from the site and dispose of it at an authorized facility.
It also asks the court to make Mr. Cascino pay civil penalties to the state of up to $7,500 for each violation of the 2012 consent order and an additional $1,500 for each day the violations continue.
If a violation is a truckload of illegal material and two such loads were hauled and dumped five days a week for six months that totals 132 days multiplied by two trips per day equals 264 multiplied by $7,500 totals about $2 million. That’s not counting the additional $1,500 per day that the violations continue.
Emailed questions to the Attorney General’s press office asking what constitutes “a violation” and how many there are was not answered.
Mr. Cascino has 20 days from receipt of the summons to answer the DEC complaint.
The case could end in a settlement agreement or a trial.
A call for comment to Mr. Cascino’s attorney, Brian Gardner was not returned.
A judgment is still awaited in the Town’s two contempt of court suits heard in Columbia County Supreme Court last year.
To contact Diane Valden email .