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A.G. Schneiderman And Dec Commissioner Seggos Announce Indictment Charging St. Lawrence County Auto Dealership And Employee For Alleged Burial Of Hazardous Waste

News from Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 21, 2016

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A.G. SCHNEIDERMAN AND DEC COMMISSIONER SEGGOS ANNOUNCE INDICTMENT CHARGING ST. LAWRENCE COUNTY AUTO DEALERSHIP AND EMPLOYEE FOR ALLEGED BURIAL OF HAZARDOUS WASTE/p>

More Than 140 Gallons Of Hazardous Waste Discovered Buried On Property Of Mahoney’s Auto Mall

CANTON—Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced the arrest of Andrew Fuller following the unsealing of an indictment charging Fuller and his employer, Mahoney’s Auto Mall, Inc. (“Mahoney’s”), for burying more than 140 gallons of hazardous substances on Mahoney’s property.

The 12-count indictment charges Fuller, 33, of Madrid, and Mahoney’s, a used car dealership and automobile repair ship located at 7513 U.S. Route 11 in the Town of Potsdam, with violations of the New York State Environmental Conservation Law (“ECL”).  The charges include one count of Endangering Public Health, Safety or the Environment in the Third Degree, a Class E felony, in violation of ECL §71-2712(4). 

“Failing to properly dispose of hazardous material jeopardies the health of New Yorkers and the surrounding environment,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “We will continue to hold polluters responsible for their actions and will not hesitate to vigorously enforce our state’s environmental laws.” 

"The long list of egregious waste violations in this case is alarming and shows blatant disregard for the laws that are in place to protect our environment and the public’s health and safety,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. “In some instances, these chemicals can be deadly, and I applaud the work of our Environmental Conservation Officers (ECOs) and the Attorney General’s office in bringing this case to fruition.”

These charges are the result of an investigation conducted by the DEC’s Division of Law Enforcement’s Bureau of Environmental Crimes Investigation (BECI) unit.

According to statements made by the prosecutor at arraignment, DEC’s investigation revealed that in June 2014, Fuller allegedly buried drums of used oil, containers of used oil filters, and tires on the Mahoney’s property.  On July 21, 2014, DEC police and regulators executed a search warrant which authorized them to excavate the waste buried at Mahoney’s.  During the excavation, DEC investigators discovered four 55-gallon drums containing approximately 142 gallons of liquid, several containers of used oil filters, and approximately 20 tires.  Subsequent laboratory analysis showed that liquid samples from each of the four drums contained the hazardous substance benzene at levels in excess of .5 milligrams per liter.  In addition to the benzene, the analysis detected the presence of the hazardous substances toluene, ethyl-benzene, and xylene.  Releases of hazardous substances that may enter the environment are illegal. 

Additionally, adjacent to the excavated waste area, DEC investigators found an open, unprotected pile of solid waste which measured 33 feet in width by 25 feet in length.  The pile of solid waste contained construction and demolition debris, roofing material, household trash, clothing, furniture and bedding.  The disposal of solid waste at the site constitutes the operation of a solid waste management facility.  The DEC subjects solid waste management facilities to strict operational and closure requirements to avoid potential adverse impacts to public health and the environment, and it is illegal to construct or operate such a facility without first obtaining a permit from the DEC.  According to DEC records, Mahoney’s neither applied for nor received the necessary permit.

Inside the auto shop, DEC investigators also discovered a concrete channel dug into the floor which transported spilled automotive fluids into a pit.  Once in the pit, the spilled fluids were discharged onto the ground outside the auto shop through a pump attached to a garden hose.  DEC investigators collected a soil sample from the area onto which the garden hose discharged the automotive fluids.  Laboratory testing by the DEC revealed that this soil was contaminated with petroleum.  DEC officials also discovered petroleum-contaminated Speedy Dry which had been disposed of outside on the ground adjacent to the auto shop. 

The indictment unsealed today in St. Lawrence County Court charges both Mahoney’s and Fuller with one felony and eight misdemeanor environmental law crimes pertaining to the burial of the hazardous material.  The felony charge of Endangering Public Health, Safety or the Environment in the Third Degree carries a potential prison sentence of up to four years and a maximum fine of $150,000.  The eight misdemeanor charges of Endangering Public Health, Safety or the Environment in the Fourth Degree, in violation of ECL §71-2711(3), each carry a potential jail sentence of up to one year and a maximum fine of $37,500.  Additionally, Mahoney’s was also charged with: two counts of Endangering Public Health, Safety or the Environment in the Fourth Degree (for the release of automotive fluids through the garden hose and the disposal of petroleum-contaminated Speedy Dry); and one count of violating ECL §71-2703(2)(b)(i), a Class B misdemeanor, for operating an unpermitted solid waste management facility, which carries a minimum fine of $3,750 and a maximum fine of up to $22,500 per day of violation.   

The Honorable Derek P. Champagne arraigned Fuller on the indictment today in St. Lawrence County Court and released him on his own recognizance. 

The charges against Mahoney’s and Fuller are merely accusations and they are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law. 

The Attorney General thanks the DEC for their assistance in this investigation, specifically Capt. Harold Barber, Lt. Jim Boylan, Investigator Mark Malone, Investigator Mike Dangler, Investigator Fran D’Angelo and Lt. Karen Przyklek.

Also assisting in the investigation was Investigator Samuel Scotellaro of the New York State Office of the Attorney General and Deputy Chief Investigator Antoine Karam.  The Attorney General’s Investigations Division is led by Chief Dominick Zarrella. 

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Andrew Tarkowski, with the assistance of Assistant Attorney General Hugh McLean, both of the Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau. The Criminal Enforcement and Financial Crimes Bureau is led by Bureau Chief Gary Fishman and Deputy Bureau Chief Stephanie Swenton. 

If you witness an environmental crime, contact the NYSDEC 24-hour Poacher and Polluter hotline at 1-844-DEC-ECOS (1-844-332-3267).