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Post date: June 12 2001

State Lawsuit Seeks Clean-up Of West Haverstraw Junkyard

Attorney General Spitzer and Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Erin M. Crotty today announced they have filed a lawsuit against the owners of an auto junkyard in West Haverstraw, seeking to prevent them from discharging harmful pollutants into the air and groundwater and to remove thousands of waste tires and requiring them to submit a plan for the clean up of the site.

The lawsuit, filed against Keahon Auto Wreckers, Inc., and two of its principals, alleges that the company is responsible for creating an environmental mess at the company's auto junkyard, an 8-acre facility, located at 210 Beach Road, where an estimated 1,000 cars are dismantled and crushed each year.

"For the past four years, rather than taking simple and reasonable steps to comply with the law, the defendants have shown a blatant disregard for public health, safety, and the environment by dumping hazardous chemicals onto the ground and into Minisceongo Creek," Spitzer said. "We intend to force these defendants to take responsibility for their actions, pay for their misdeeds and comply with the law."

"New York's environmental laws and regulations are designed to protect local communities from harmful pollution, and in this case we have taken aggressive action to halt the source of the pollution and clean up the site," said DEC Commissioner Crotty. "We will continue to work with Attorney General Spitzer to ensure those who contaminated the site are held responsible for their actions and send the message that New York will not tolerate illegal activities of auto dismantlers in the Hudson River Valley."

As a result of the lawsuit, a Rockland County judge today ordered the defendants to stop discharging waste oil, antifreeze, transmission fluid, and other pollutants into the Minisceongo Creek. In addition, the Court ordered the defendants to remove thousands of waste tires illegally stored at the site. The tires create a fire hazard, and pose a public health threat because they can collect standing water, which provides a breeding ground for mosquitoes .

The Court order also prohibited the defendants from releasing freon from automobile air conditioning systems into the air. Freon is a chlorofluorocarbon that contributes to the destruction of the ozone layer.

It is alleged that the defendants have been discharging toxic pollutants from their auto dismantling operations for more than four years and have not taken the legally-required measures to protect the environment. For example, the defendants do not drain automobile fluids into containers before crushing cars and do not conduct their operation on top of concrete containment areas to protect the soil and groundwater from spills.

The lawsuit is similar to actions filed in April against the operators of 21 auto junkyards in New York City for violating environmental law. Following a year-long investigation, Spitzer filed charges against the junkyards in Willets Point, Queens, near Shea Stadium, that were allegedly engaged in similar activities.

The lawsuit against Keahon Auto Wreckers is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Philip Bein and Lemuel Srolovic, with the assistance of Scientists Michael Surgan and Rona Baruch, under the supervision of Peter Lehner, Chief of the Environmental Protection Bureau. Dominic Cordisco, Regional Attorney for DEC's Region III, and DEC Environmental Engineer Kenneth Grzyb are providing assistance on behalf of DEC.