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Post date: May 19 2004

Niagara Falls Tank Cleaning Company Pleads Guilty

Attorney General Spitzer and State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Erin Crotty today announced that a Niagara Falls tank cleaning business and four of its employees have pleaded guilty to dumping industrial waste into the city's sewer system.

Philip Services Corp. ("PSC"), a rail and truck tank cleaning business located at 33 South Hyde Park Boulevard and the four employees pleaded guilty today before Niagara Falls City Court Judge Angelo Morinello.

The company violated state environmental law by flushing untreated rinse water from the tanker trucks and rail cars it cleaned directly into the city's sanitary sewage system. This violated PSC's permit with the city which required that the company treat its industrial waste to remove chemical residue before sending the rinse water to the city's sewer system.

PSC's discharges to the sewers came from tanker trucks and rail cars that carried industrial chemicals, hazardous wastes, oils and food products.

"Businesses must respect the rules and regulations that ensure the safety and well-being of communities in which they operate," said Attorney General Spitzer. "And if they don't, my office will work with the DEC and Commissioner Crotty to prosecute those who place themselves above the law."

DEC Commissioner Crotty said: "Protecting water resources from illegal discharges is essential to ensuring the safety of New York's citizens. Those who disregard environmental laws pose a significant threat to communities and the environment. I'm pleased that DEC's staff has once again worked in concert with the Attorney General's Office to hold polluters accountable."

Investigators from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the United States Environmental Protection Agency determined that in October 2002, PSC discharged rinse water containing chemical residue from the truck trailers and rail tank cars cleaned at the facility. The illegal discharge was initially discovered by City of Niagara Falls municipal employees on October 30, 2002 while they were conducting a routine inspection of the sewer system.

As a part of the plea agreement reached with the Attorney General's Office and the DEC, PSC will buy $136,000-worth of equipment for the City of Niagara Falls wastewater treatment facility. The equipment, which will be delivered to the city within 60 days, will be used by city inspectors to investigate similar pre-treatment violations.

Through its attorney, PSC pleaded guilty today to one count of a Class A misdemeanor for violating state Environmental Conservation Law. The offense is punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $25,000. In addition, PSC's facility manager, Larry Carbone, and tank cleaners Mark Burgler, Scott Palm and Chris Day also pleaded guilty to the same charge.

Judge Morinello sentenced PSC today to a conditional discharge, one of the conditions being that the company purchase $136,000 in equipment for the city's wastewater treatment plant as set forth in the plea agreement with the state. Sentencing for Larry Carbone, Mark Burgler and Chris Day was set for June 25 and for Scott Palm on July 2 before Judge Morinello in Niagara Falls City Court.

The case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Russell Ippolito of the Attorney General's Criminal Prosecutions Bureau. Assisting in the case were DEC Investigator Daniel Sullivan and EPA Investigator Douglas Knorr of the Environmental Protection Agency, Criminal Investigation Division.