State Sues To Clean Up Greene County Toxic Site

Attorney General Spitzer and state Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner John Cahill today announced a lawsuit to finance the cleanup of lead and toxic solvents left behind at the former American Valve Manufacturing Corporation in Coxsackie.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Albany, also names two corporate officers of American Valve, company founder Jack Guterman and his son, Frederick Guterman, who relocated the business to North Carolina where it operates today.

The lawsuit charges the defendants with violations of the federal Superfund law and with creating a public nuisance at the Coxsackie site.

"We know that exposure to lead and toxic solvents -- two toxins found at American Valve -- can cause severe health damage," said Spitzer. "This lawsuit will help ensure that the public health and the environment are protected by cleaning up this site in Coxsackie. In addition, it will ensure that the polluter, rather than the taxpayers of New York, foots the bill for the multi-million dollar cleanup."

DEC Commissioner Cahill said: "By initiating this legal action, DEC and the Attorney General's office continue to demonstrate their commitment to working together to pursue those who would damage our environment and harm the health of New Yorkers. DEC will ensure that this site is properly cleaned while demanding restitution from the responsible parties."

Coxsackie Mayor Henry Rausch expressed his appreciation that the state is holding the company accountable, saying: "I am pleased that the state is taking action to hold American Valve and its owners responsible for creating a hazardous waste dump in the middle of our village."

From 1920 until 1988, American Valve operated a valve manufacturing and assembly business. Foundry operations at the site generated more than 70,000 cubic yards of waste sand contaminated with lead. In addition, workers dumped perchloroethylene -- a toxic solvent used to degrease machinery parts -- into a shallow pit at the Coxsackie factory. The discarded solvent has contaminated soil and groundwater.

The factory site includes a number of deteriorating buildings that are contaminated with lead dust. Ten acres of the 15-acre site consist of contaminated buildings on the verge of collapse. The toxic site is less than a mile away from the Coxsackie-Athens school.

Lead exposure can affect intelligence levels, the central nervous system, kidney function and blood cell formation and development. Exposure to perchloroethylene can damage the liver, kidneys, and the nervous and reproductive systems, and increase the risk of some forms of cancer.

The DEC will begin a cleanup operation at the site this fall, which will include the demolition of the dilapidated buildings, treating the contaminated soil, consolidating and capping the foundry sand, and landscaping the property. Cost of the cleanup effort is estimated to be $7 million.

The case is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Michael Myers and David Munro of the Environmental Protection Bureau and by DEC enforcement attorneys Michael Lesser and Patricia McMahon.