Dry Dock Operation Pollutes New York Harbor

Attorney General Spitzer and state Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner John Cahill today announced the filing of legal action against a ship repair facility in the Brooklyn Navy Yard for its persistent pattern of violating state environmental laws.

The lawsuit against Eastern Technical Enterprises, Inc. and its president, Petros M. Beys, charges that the ship repair facility routinely violates state hazardous waste, water pollution and air pollution laws. As a result, the East River has been polluted and the facility presents a health hazard both to its own employees and to workers at nearby businesses in the Navy Yard.

"The Eastern Technical facility is operating in violation of state laws that protect the environment and public health from harm," said Spitzer. "My office is working with the Department of Environmental Conservation to protect the Navy Yard community and New York's marine environment from continuing environmental degradation."

Commissioner Cahill said: "Companies that do not comply with state environmental laws must be held responsible. We will work cooperatively with Attorney General Spitzer to ensure that Eastern Technical Enterprises takes appropriate corrective action that is protective of the East River and the local community."

Eastern Technical Enterprises operates two dry docks in the Brooklyn Navy Yard where the company sandblasts paint off marine vessels and repaints them. In the process, the company routinely flushes paint chips -- which contain lead, cadmium and chromium that are toxic to humans and marine life -- and sandblasting grit into the East River when the ships re-enter the river.

The company also routinely releases uncontrolled clouds of sandblasting grit and paint residue into the air around the Navy Yard, prompting employees at nearby businesses to complain of negative health effects and damage to the paint on their vehicles.

In one 12-month period in 1998 and 1999, for example, the company sandblasted and repainted six ships using 370 tons of sandblasting grit -- roughly one ton of grit per day. The shipyard also routinely stores hazardous and toxic materials improperly and disposes of these toxic materials in an illegal and unsafe manner.

Eastern Technical, which has operated as a marine repair facility in the Navy Yard since 1993, has never acquired any of the state environmental permits necessary to operate such an enterprise.

Spitzer said: "The state environmental permit system, administered by Commissioner Cahill, is designed to ensure there is no unacceptable pollution. Eastern Technical's failure to seek permits cannot be tolerated."

The Attorney General's lawsuit comes only after considerable effort by the state to convince the shipyard to voluntarily comply with environmental laws.

The lawsuit was filed today in state Supreme Court in Brooklyn. In the lawsuit, the state seeks a court order prohibiting the facility from operating in violation of applicable environmental requirements, and penalties for past violations.

One of the two dry docks operated by Eastern Technical is reportedly the oldest in the United States and was used to build and launch the nation's first ironclad warship, the U.S.S. Monitor, during the Civil War.

The matter is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Lemuel Srolovic of the Environmental Protection Bureau, and by Louis Oliva, DEC Regional Attorney, and Gail Hintz, DEC Assistant Regional Attorney.