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Post date: May 12 2016

A.G. Schneiderman Announces Guilty Plea, $65k Fine For Steuben County Man Who Illegally Dumped Food Byproduct, Contaminating Purdy Creek

Russell Gerow Pleaded Guilty To A Felony Environmental Crime, Paid $65K Fine, Entered Order Of Consent With DEC For Strict Oversight

Schneiderman: Acts Which Endanger Our Natural Resources Will Not Be Tolerated

BATH – New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the guilty plea of Russell Gerow related to the illegal discharge of waste whey into New York State waters without a permit. Gerow pleaded guilty yesterday before the Honorable Marianne Furfure in Steuben County Court to illegally making a point source discharge system in violation of the Environmental Conservation Law, a Class E felony. 

“New York’s waters are amongst our greatest resources, and we must vigilantly protect them,” said Attorney General Schneiderman.  “This plea sends the message, loud and clear, that my office will not tolerate illegal acts which endanger our natural resources.”

Gerow, 65, of Hartsville, New York, is the owner and operator of Skyline Farms, LLC, a waste removal business.  Gerow admitted to creating an outlet for the discharge of industrial waste on his property on Purdy Creek Road without a permit. 

According to the Attorney General’s felony complaint filed against Gerow, between May 2013 and September 2013, Gerow was hired by an Arkport cottage cheese manufacturer to haul away waste whey, a byproduct of the cheese production, and to lawfully dispose of the whey.  However, instead of lawfully disposing of the waste, Gerow allegedly illegally dumped it into his property using the discharge system he created.  Testing by chemists from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) revealed high levels of ammonia and phosphorus downstream from Gerow’s property but not upstream, demonstrating that the illegal discharge contaminated the waters of Purdy Creek.  

“This is yet another example of polluters putting profit over the health of our environment,” said Acting DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “Used correctly, this whey should have been returned to soil as a beneficial nutrient or transported to a waste water treatment facility for proper disposal. Instead, this defendant made the conscious decision to illegally dispose of the waste in a stream behind his property, degrading water quality with an excessive nutrient load.  I applaud our DEC Encon Police Investigators and program staff along with the Attorney General’s office who brought this case to a successful conclusion.”             

In August 2013, the DEC’s Division of Water received a complaint that Purdy Creek in the Town of Hartsville, Steuben County, was showing signs of distress. As a result, the DEC’s Division of Law Enforcement commenced an investigation into the matter, in conjunction with uniform members and the DEC’s Division of Water and Operations.  The DEC’s investigation, including a search warrant, revealed algae growth and contamination in Purdy Creek originating from Mr. Gerow’s Farm at 1520 Purdy Creek Road. DEC’s investigation revealed that Gerow had been illegally discharging whey at his farm and other locations, including a creek behind his property. 

As part of his plea, Gerow paid a $65,000 fine to the DEC and was sentenced to a conditional discharge.  Additionally, Gerow signed a Consent Order with the DEC requiring him to provide the DEC with access to the site on Purdy Creek Road and records of Skyline Farms, LLC. 

The Attorney General thanked the DEC for their assistance in this investigation. 

The investigation was conducted by Investigator Jeffrey Lamphier, former Lieutenant Richard Thomas and Environmental Conservation Officer Steven Farrand of the DEC’s Division of Law Enforcement, under the supervision of Major Scott Florence.  Assisting in the investigation were Investigator Sandra Migaj of the New York State Office of the Attorney General, under the supervision of Supervising Investigator Richard Doyle and Deputy Chief Antoine Karam.  The Investigations Division is led by Chief Dominick Zarrella.

The criminal case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Cydney Kelly of the Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau.  The Bureau is led by Bureau Chief Gary Fishman and Deputy Chief Stephanie Swenton.  The Division of Justice is led by Executive Deputy Attorney General Kelly Donovan.