Attorney General Cuomo Obtains $2.7 Million In Penalties Against Operator Of Illegal Lackawanna Dump

BUFFALO, N.Y. (December 17, 2008) – Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that the owner of an illegal dump in Western New York has been ordered to pay $2.7 million in penalties and has been banned from the garbage business for dumping thousands of tons of waste without a permit.

Erie County Supreme Court Justice John A. Michalek ordered David W. Tomasello to pay $2,712,950 in penalties to the state for operating an illegal dump in the city of Lackawanna. Tomasello is also barred from being involved in the solid waste business in New York state.

“This individual’s callous and brazen disregard for both the law and the environment is an absolute affront to all New Yorkers,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “He is paying a heavy and justified price for his actions. My office will continue to aggressively pursue justice against anyone who breaks New York’s environmental laws.”

Tomasello, owner of Tomasello Contracting Corporation and Lake Front Recycling, Inc., purchased the 15.8 acre site on North Steelawanna Ave. in 1997 and began dumping solid waste at the location without a permit.

According to the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), since 2002 more than 31,200 tons of solid waste has accumulated illegally at the site. In addition to violating multiple solid waste laws, the site poses a fire hazard (evidence of several fires was noticed upon state inspection), provides a breeding area for mosquitoes from stagnant waters in containers and debris, shelters public health nuisances such as mice and rats, represents a potential pollution threat to ground and surface water from runoff, and is an eyesore that generates frequent complaints. He also repeatedly failed to properly store the waste and control odors, and neglected to remove unauthorized waste in a timely manner.

Debris mounds on the site reached 22-feet tall and are easily visible from surrounding properties.

“Violating environmental conservation laws, neglecting cleanup obligations, creating a 22-foot high pile of debris and then fleeing the state to avoid responsibility is not acceptable,” said DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis. “DEC staff and the Attorney General’s Office have worked doggedly on this case and their persistence has enabled an appropriate and final resolution to the long history of violations generated by this site’s owner.”

Tomasello was arraigned in local court in 2003 for operating a solid waste management facility without a permit and in violation of Environmental Conservation Laws and regulations. He then fled New York State to avoid legal jurisdiction, abandoning the Lakefront Recycling site. The property was eventually foreclosed for failure to pay property taxes.

This case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Joseph Koczaja under the supervision of Environmental Protection Bureau Deputy Bureau Chief Lisa Burianek and Special Deputy Attorney General Katherine Kennedy. DEC Region 9, based in Buffalo, assisted in the case.