A.G. Schneiderman Wins Decision Holding Washington Co. Junkyard Owners In Contempt For Failing To Complete Environmental Cleanup

East Side Used Auto Parts Ignored Court-Ordered Cleanup Of Waste, Harmful Chemicals in Residential Neighborhood

Contempt Order Requires Completion of Cleanup; 30-Day Imprisonment if Order Violated

Schneiderman: My Office Will Ensure Defendants Remedy Dangerous Conditions They Created in Community

HUDSON FALLS – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that he has won a contempt of court decision against a Washington County scrap metal and automobile dismantling operation and its owners for failing to complete a court-ordered cleanup of environmental contamination.  The Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of Washington found East Side Used Auto Parts, and its owner James Marro, in civil and criminal contempt for ignoring a 2011 court-ordered settlement to remedy the environmental damages caused by allowing toxic chemicals to contaminate the air and nearby groundwater. The Court ordered the defendants to complete the cleanup of the site and pay a $100,000 penalty.  The Court also imposed a 30-day imprisonment sentence on James Marro, suspended so long as he complies with the terms of the court’s order. 

“Through reckless, illegal conduct, the owners of this junkyard created dangerous conditions in the heart of a residential neighborhood, then ignored their obligations to the court – and to the community – to remedy them,” Attorney General Schneiderman said.  “This decision sends the message that such behavior and disregard for the rules will not be tolerated. My office will continue working to ensure that those who break the law will be held accountable.” 

From 2003 to 2010, East Side Used Auto Parts operated at 3614 Burgoyne Avenue, Kingsbury, a site that borders a residential neighborhood on three sides and a public school on the fourth.  Over the course of the junkyard’s operation, the owners were repeatedly cited by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) for mishandling waste at the site and illegally discharging harmful chemicals into the environment.  Residents who live nearby repeatedly complained of headaches, nausea, breathing difficulties, and loss of sleep due to the junkyard’s operations.

“I applaud the DEC’s Environmental Conservation Officers, Law Enforcement officials and Attorney General Schneiderman for pursuing this case to ensure the protection of public health and the environment,” Acting DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. “The willful violation of environmental laws and failure to complete a court ordered remediation in this case is appalling and DEC commends the court for this strong decision. This should serve as a stern warning that if you disregard environmental laws and contaminate the environment, DEC will find you and you will be prosecuted.”

After the matter was referred by the DEC, the Office of the Attorney General brought a lawsuit against East Side Used Auto Parts, and its co-owners James and Robert Marro, in Washington County Supreme Court.  In 2011, the defendants entered into a court-ordered settlement with Attorney General Schneiderman in which they committed to a full cleanup of the site, including removing waste materials and debris, and implementing an investigation of soil and groundwater contamination.  However, when the defendants stopped all cleanup and investigative work, Attorney General Schneiderman asked the court to hold them in civil and criminal contempt. 

In the decision, the court granted the Attorney General’s motion, finding that, among other things, East Side Used Auto Parts and James Marro – who signed the settlement – failed to make a good faith effort to comply with the 2011 settlement.  In this finding, the court concluded that defendants had no basis for claiming they lacked sufficient assets by which to fund compliance with the settlement and complete the cleanup. 

The court ordered the defendants to comply with the settlement, including submitting a schedule for completion of their remedial obligations.  The court also ordered defendants to pay a $100,000 penalty, plus interest, as well as plaintiffs’ costs and expenses.  In addition, the court imposed a 30-day imprisonment sentence on James Marro, although the sentence was suspended so long as he complies with the terms of the order.

While in operation, East Side Used Auto Parts and its owners crushed cars without properly draining the fluids, thereby allowing gasoline, petroleum, antifreeze, and Freon to pollute the soil and groundwater wells.  The operation was also cited for spilling hazardous chemicals and improperly storing potentially harmful debris, including car batteries and tires.  Further, the crushing and handling of vehicles and scrap metal at the facility created noxious odors, dust, smoke, loud noises, and vibrations that impacted the health and quality of life of residents in nearby homes.

Attorney General Schneiderman thanks Michelle A. Crew, Regional Attorney with the DEC Region 5 Office of General Counsel, and multiple DEC technical staff members, including Environmental Engineer Andrew Frank and Principal Economist Sharon Brooks for their work on this matter.

This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Brian Lusignan and Michael Myers, and Environmental Scientist Mauricio Roma, of the Attorney General's Environmental Protection Bureau, which is led by Bureau Chief Lemuel Srolovic.  The Environmental Protection Bureau is part of the Attorney General’s Social Justice Division.  The Executive Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice is Alvin Bragg.