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Post date: September 30 1999

State Sues Pittsford Asphalt Plant For Environmental Violations

Attorney General Spitzer and state Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner John Cahill today announced they are suing a Monroe County asphalt plant for civil and criminal violations of state clean air, clean water and oil spill laws.

The action against Monoco Oil Co., Inc. in the Town of Pittsford is designed to bring an end to more than a decade of environmental hazards that have severely disrupted life in the community. The plant, which borders a school and residential neighborhoods, has been the subject of more than 1,900 complaints phoned in to a local odor hot line.

"For far too long, Pittsford residents and the faculty, staff and students at Pittsford Sutherland High School have had to breathe noxious fumes from the Monoco plant," said Spitzer. "These fumes have made people ill and have disrupted life in the community. Despite being given every opportunity to change its operations, the company has consistently failed to comply with environmental regulations and has broken its promises to reduce its emissions. Pittsford's suffering at the hands of this company leaves me no choice but to take aggressive legal action."

"Under Governor Pataki's leadership, the state Department of Environmental Conservation has been working aggressively to ensure that state and federal environmental regulations are being followed and that those who violate them are pursued," said Cahill. "We will continue to work with Attorney General Spitzer to ensure that emissions from the Monoco Oil plant are controlled."

In a civil lawsuit, Spitzer and Cahill are seeking a preliminary injunction against Monoco and three corporate officers -- Raymond Hurwitz, Norman Hurwitz and Garry Hurwitz -- prohibiting the processing of any additional asphalt at the plant, and requiring that all asphalt currently on the site be removed within 30 days. In addition, the state seeks a permanent injunction requiring cleanup and closure of the plant, and civil penalties for the company's violations of air pollution, water pollution and oil spill regulations.

In a separate action, the state also filed three criminal charges against Monoco, including one felony and one misdemeanor charge for a March 1999 oil spill at the facility that fouled the Erie Canal, and a misdemeanor charge related to the public nuisance caused by fumes emanating from the plant.

Spitzer filed the civil and criminal actions because of concern about the hazards of the plant's asphalt fumes, which can cause a variety of adverse health impacts, including nausea, eye, nose and throat irritation, abnormal fatigue, skin rashes, sleep deprivation and reduced appetite. A number of local residents provided affidavits to the Attorney General's office detailing a wide range of health problems associated with odors from the facility.

Fumes and odors from the plant are so severe that the neighboring Pittsford Sutherland High School is often forced to close its windows -- even on the hottest days of the year -- to keep the noxious emissions from entering classrooms. Approximately 930 students, staff and faculty occupy the school each day.

Pittsford Town Supervisor William Carpenter said: "For years the quality of life of our residents, as well as our students and athletes, has suffered because of the strong odors from Monoco Oil. As a community, we have tried to work with the owners of this business to achieve satisfactory improvements. However, despite our best efforts, we have not achieved the desired result. The legal action announced here today gives us renewed hope we may soon be able to go to school, walk the streets and relax in our homes without being assaulted by noxious fumes."

Attorney General Spitzer and Commissioner Cahill acknowledged the important work done on the Monoco issue by Pittsford Town Supervisor William Carpenter; Mayor Robert Corby of the Village of Pittsford and the Residents Committee for Clean Air.

The Monoco case was developed by staff and investigators at the Department of Environmental Conservation and referred to the Attorney General for prosecution.

Civil charges against Monoco are being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Christopher Amato, Jared Snyder, Michael Myers and Chief Scientist Peter Skinner. The criminal charges are being handled by Assistant Attorney General Paul McCarthy.