New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has announced the arrest of Michael Jones following the unsealing of an indictment charging Jones and his company, Coast Transportation and Recycling LLC, with multiple environmental law crimes, including discharging polluted water into a Ley Creek, a local waterway, and failing to obtain appropriate state regulatory permits.
New York State Environmental Conservation (DEC) Acting Commissioner Basil Seggos also took part in the arrest announcement.
An Onondaga County, New York, Grand Jury handed up a 10-count indictment charging Jones and Coast Transportation and Recycling, an automobile salvage and scrap recycling facility in Salina, New York, with violating the state’s Environmental Conservation Law (ECL). The charges include a Class E felony for allegedly knowingly discharging pollutants without first obtaining a New York State Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit. The defendant is scheduled to appear in court on Aug. 31, 2016.
“My office will continue to protect New York’s waterways from illegal forms of pollution,” says Attorney General Schneiderman. “Protecting our state’s natural resources is essential to safeguard both the public health and local economies, and those who break the law will be held accountable.”
The charges are the result of an investigation conducted by the DEC.
“The actions of the defendant in this case show a total disregard for the environment and for the safety of the community around Ley Creek,” says Commissioner Seggos. “I applaud the work of our Environmental Conservation officers and the Attorney General’s office in ensuring that the state's laws are enforced and its environment protected.”
According to statements made by the prosecutor at the arraignment, DEC’s investigation revealed that in February 2010, two underground storage tanks were removed from Coast’s facility. The 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.
According to the prosecutor, 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 petroleum contaminated soil 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 at the arraignment, DEC’s investigation revealed that May 15 and May 19, 2011, liquid runoff from the soil pile flowed across Coast’s property and into a stormwater drain, which ultimately discharged into a tributary of Ley Creek. Laboratory testing by DEC revealed that the liquid flowing into the stormwater drain contained the hazardous substances benzene, toluene, ethyl-benzene, and xylene.
Additionally, Sept. 18, 2012, Jones allegedly directed a Coast employee to set up and operate an electric pump to discharge stormwater that had accumulated in Coast’s parking lot into another stormwater drain, which also discharged into a tributary of Ley Creek. Laboratory testing by DEC revealed that this stormwater contained motor oil.
Jones and Coast allegedly discharged the oil laden stormwater 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 indictment filed in Onondaga County Court charges Jones and his company with one felony and nine misdemeanor environmental law crimes. The felony charge carries a prison sentence of up to four years and a maximum fine of $75,000 per day. The misdemeanor charges include one count of operating an unpermitted solid waste management facility, which carries a maximum jail sentence of up to one year and a maximum fine of $37,500 per day, and eight counts of Endangering Public Health, Safety or the Environment in the Fourth Degree, which carries a maximum jail sentence of up to one year and a maximum fine of $37,500.
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 $30,000.