State Seeks Cleanup At Monroe County Asphalt Plant

Attorney General Spitzer and Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner John Cahill today announced they are seeking a court order compelling the owners of a Monroe County asphalt plant to clean up environmental damage and pay $5.2 million in civil penalties.

The Monoco Oil Company, Inc. in Pittsford is located on the Erie Canal and is immediately adjacent to the Pittsford-Sutherland High School. The plant has fouled the local environment for over a decade and has been the subject of more than 1,900 citizen complaints about noxious odors that often waft over the community.

In September 1999, Attorney General Spitzer filed litigation against the company for violating state environmental and public nuisance laws. On February 25, 2000 Monroe County Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Frazee ruled that the plant's emissions over a 14-year period constituted a public nuisance and ordered the facility closed. The judge also found that the company had violated state air pollution, water pollution and oil spill laws.

After the court decision, state officials spent five months in unsuccessful negotiations with Monoco over a cleanup of an oil spill and other environmental damage at the asphalt plant.

When it became clear that continued negotiations would be fruitless, Spitzer returned to court last week seeking a court-ordered cleanup and civil penalties against Monoco's owners, Raymond, Norman and Gary Hurwitz.

"Monoco and its owners refuse to accept responsibility for the cleanup of the site, which has been contaminated as a result of their illegal acts," said Spitzer. "The court has found the operation to be a public nuisance and it is now time to hold the company and its owners accountable."

DEC Commissioner Cahill said: "Under Gov. George Pataki's leadership, New York State works hard to protect our land, air and water from the damaging effects of pollution. Through this case we will hold those responsible for harming the environment responsible for their actions."

On September 8, Judge Frazee ordered the Hurwitzes to appear in court on December 7 to respond to the state's motion for a cleanup and fines.

The state has asked the court to require that the Hurwitzes:

  • Pay civil penalties of $5.2 million for violations of state environmental laws;
  • Be held individually liable for the violations at the plant;
  • Clean up the oil spill that occurred at the plant in March 1999;
  • Submit a plan for DEC approval for the permanent closure and cleanup of the plant; and,
  • Provide an accounting of the assets of the company from January 1, 1999 to the present.

The state also asked the court to freeze the company's assets until the financial accounting is complete.

The case is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Christopher Amato and Michael Myers and Chief Scientist Peter Skinner, all in the Attorney General's Environmental Protection Bureau. DEC staff who worked on this phase of the case include Thomas Marriott and Michael Zamiarski.

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