Conviction In Hazardous Waste Dumping Case

Attorney General Spitzer and State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Acting Commissioner Erin M. Crotty today announced the conviction of a Greene County man responsible for dumping cans of household paint from a roadway into the protected New York City Watershed.

Richard Karazim, of Jewett, pleaded guilty March 27 in Town of Ashland Court to a Fourth-Degree charge of Endangering the Public Health, Safety or the Environment. The A-level misdemeanor is punishable by a fine of up to $25,000 and up to a year in jail. Karazim, 60, will be sentenced later this spring by Town Justice David Hoyt.

On March 26, 2000, 40 five-gallon pails of white, gray and green paint were found dumped down an embankment off County Route 17, in the Town of Ashland. The town is in the Schoharie Reservoir watershed which provides unfiltered drinking water to nine million people in New York City. Some of the cans had burst open, spilling paint onto the ground. Hazardous materials in the paint could have seeped into the ground and over time percolated into small waterways, including the nearby Batavia Kill, that flow into watershed reservoirs, thus polluting drinking water.

After a DEC Spills Response Team arranged for the site to be cleaned up, DEC investigators and attorneys from the Attorney General's office began an investigation into the source of the paint.

That investigation led to Karazim, who operates RKA Associates, a furniture manufacturing and refinishing business, on Route 23 in Windham. Karazim had obtained the paint some years ago from a New York City company as surplus. He told investigators that he never found a use for the paint and that he paid $150 to a former employee (who has since been deported for unrelated reasons) to dispose of the paint on the evening of January 4, 2000.

"The Schoharie watershed is a fragile resource that must be vigorously protected" said Spitzer. "We will continue to work with the DEC to uphold the environmental law and prosecute those who would pollute this valuable source of water for millions of people as a matter of convenience."

DEC Acting Commissioner Erin M. Crotty said: "State laws that regulate the disposal of hazardous substances are designed to protect both our environment and the public health. The Schoharie watershed provides clean and safe drinking water for New York City, and our staff will continue to strictly enforce the state's environmental laws and regulations to prevent any contamination of this valuable resource."

The case was handled by Assistant Attorney General David Prior, under the supervision of Rocky Piaggione Chief of the Environmental Crimes Unit and Criminal Prosecution Bureau Chief Janet Cohn. DEC's investigation was led by Steve Canfield. Environmental Conservation Officers James Volker and Matt Franklin of the Agency's Bureau of Spills Prevention and Response were also part of the investigation effort.