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Post date: April 3 2003

Indictment In Oneida County Hazardous Waste Case

Attorney General Spitzer and State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Erin Crotty today announced the indictment of a Utica man for illegally dumping drums containing hazardous substances at three locations in Oneida County.

The defendant, Joseph Salerno, doing business as Joe's Auto and Snowmobile, at 2122 Oriskany Boulevard, Utica, was arraigned today before Judge Michael Dwyer in Oneida County Court on two counts of Endangering Public Health, Safety or the Environment in the Third Degree, one count of Unlawful Possession of Hazardous Wastes in the Second Degree, and one count of Unlawful Dealing in Hazardous Wastes in the First Degree, all Class E felonies; and one charge of Reckless Endangerment in the Second Degree, a Class A misdemeanor. If convicted, Salerno faces up to four years in prison.

Salerno pleaded not guilty to the charges and was released on his own recognizance pending further court action scheduled for May 1.

On April 12, 2002, DEC investigators discovered drums containing small amounts of waste oil, gasoline and paint thinner dumped along the sides of roads in three locations in Utica and the Town of Deerfield. Investigators traced the drums to Salerno's place of business, Joe's Auto and Snowmobile. On August 23, 2002 officials found over 1,000 gallons of hazardous substances at Salerno's place of business that he intended to dispose of by illegally burning as heating fuel.

"Those doing business in New York have a responsibility to do so in a lawful way," said Attorney General Spitzer. "My office will continue to work with DEC to prosecute those who illegally dispose of hazardous materials as a matter of convenience."

DEC Commissioner Crotty said: "New York State strictly regulates the disposal of hazardous substances to ensure that public health and our environment are protected. This case sends a clear message that DEC and the State Attorney General's Office will not tolerate the illegal dumping of hazardous materials, and will take legal action against those who threaten our environment."

The case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Rocky Piaggione under the supervision of Julieta Lozano, Chief of the Environmental Crimes Unit of the Attorney General's Office.

The charges are merely allegations and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.