Cohoes Company Pleads Guilty To Environmental Crimes

Attorney General Spitzer and State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Erin Crotty today announced that a Cohoes company pled guilty to illegally dumping waste oil and fuel into a storm drain and failing to report it to the state.

The company, Norlite Corporation, 628 South Saratoga St., Cohoes, burns hazardous wastes mixed with oil in large kilns in a process that converts shale into a lightweight alternative to concrete. An investigation by the Department of Environmental Conservation determined that the company routinely dumped oil, diesel fuel and polluted water down a storm drain that emptied underground near the company's employee parking lot.

"It is vitally important that we protect the environment and public health of New York State," said Spitzer. "Today's legal action will help ensure that Norlite plays by the same rules that all companies are expected to comply with. My office will continue to work closely with Commissioner Crotty and the DEC to prosecute those who seek to make a profit at the expense of our environment."

DEC Commissioner Crotty said: "The State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Attorney General's office took decisive action to end the illegal dumping of petroleum products and ensure that the company handles these materials properly. We will continue to work together to promote responsible environmental stewardship and ensure the protection of New York's environment and natural resources."

Norlite pled guilty to two counts of illegal release of a substance hazardous to public health, safety or the environment; one count of illegal discharge of industrial waste to the waters of the state; and one count of failure to report a spill. All the charges are Class A misdemeanors. Norlite entered its guilty pleas before the Hon. Caroline Guresz in Cohoes City Court.

The environmental crimes committed by Norlite took place between January 1999 and October 2000. After completing its investigation, the DEC referred the case to the Attorney General's Office for prosecution.

As a result of the legal action, Norlite will pay a $100,000 fine and will make a payment of $25,000 to the DEC to buy equipment for its hazardous materials response team and a payment of $75,000 to the City of Cohoes Fire Department for training and equipment for its hazardous materials response team.

In addition, the company must implement a number of measures to ensure full compliance, including:

  • create the position of Vice President of Environmental Affairs within the company;
  • undergo an independent audit of its waste handling operations;
  • install a permanent system to treat contaminated storm water;
  • improve dust control measures: and,
  • allow the State freer access to monitor the company's operations

During an excavation in October 2000 to expand an employee parking lot, workers discovered that oil, polluted water and diesel fuel had been discharged underground. Norlite undertook a cleanup of the area without contacting the DEC, as required by law. An investigation by the DEC and the Attorney General's Office determined that a drain at the company's fuel storage area led to a discharge point under the parking lot construction site.

The investigation also found that Norlite did not properly dispose of rainwater tainted with oil from the truck storage area where trucks with hazardous waste are parked.

The case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Rocky Piaggione of the Criminal Prosecution Bureau and by Assistant Attorney General Michael Myers of the Environmental Protection Bureau. The investigation was handled by DEC investigator Stephen Canfield.