Illegal dumping cost more than $1.4 million

The Putnam Valley Volunteer Fire Department spent at least $1.4 million of taxpayer funds removing contaminated demolition waste at the site for its new firehouse, allegedly dumped there by a contractor at the invitation of a firefighter.

More than six years later, with the firehouse under construction following a state-ordered cleanup, the fire department is taking steps to recoup its costs for what it calls “significant environmental damage” from the illegal waste.

Judge Victor Grossman of the Putnam County Supreme Court ordered the contractor, John Adorno of Universal Construction in Yorktown Heights, to appear Feb. 14 to respond to a petition filed by the PVVFD.

The department, in a Jan. 18 filing, asked the judge to compel Adorno to identify the owners of the sites where the waste originated, the contractors involved in the demolition and excavation, who arranged to have the material dumped at the Putnam Valley property on Oscawana Lake Road, and who drove it there.

The waste — at least 10,000 cubic yards of asphalt, bricks, concrete and lumber — was dumped on property the fire department shares with the Putnam Valley Volunteer Ambulance Corps.

Testing of the material found 11 semi-volatile organic compounds, seven metal compounds, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), pesticides and materials containing asbestos, according to HDR Engineering, which was hired to clean the site.

HDR said it removed 4,235 tons of fill and 83 tons of asbestos. The work delayed construction of the firehouse, which grew costlier to build, according to the PVVFD. In August 2021 the department closed on an $11 million loan to build and equip the facility.

Neither Adorno nor the PVVFD responded to requests for comment, but a field report from an official with the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), who visited the property in August 2016 after complaints about the dumping, named a firefighter, Charlie Milo, whom it said had given the contractor permission to dump the waste.

According to court documents, Adorno told the DEC during its investigation that most of the waste came from Metro Green, a facility in Mount Vernon that recycles construction and excavation material. He said the rest came from a demolition project on Water Street in the Bronx, according to documents.

The DEC eventually determined that the fire department was operating a solid-waste management facility without a permit. Under a consent decree with the agency in January 2019, the PVVFD paid a $5,000 fine and for the remediation, which began in 2020 and was completed in 2021.

This is the second court case related to contamination at a PVVFD property.

The Putnam Valley Central School District filed a lawsuit on Dec. 21 against nearly two dozen companies over the contamination of the well that supplies drinking water to students, faculty and staff at its elementary school.

The companies manufactured products containing polyfluoroalkyl substances, a class of chemicals used in nonstick and stain- and water-resistant coatings and in foams used by firefighters to suppress blazes caused by liquids such as jet fuel.

Their use has been linked to illnesses such as kidney and testicular cancer, ulcerative colitis and high cholesterol.

The lawsuit says the source of the contamination is the use of firefighting foams at the department’s firehouses on Canopus Hollow and Peekskill Hollow roads.

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

The Peekskill resident is a former reporter for the Times Herald-Record in Middletown, where he covered Sullivan County and later Newburgh. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Morgan State University and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland. Location: Cold Spring. Languages: English. Area of Expertise: General.

4 replies on “Putnam Valley Fire Department Seeks Cleanup Costs”

  1. I was glad to see your recent articles about Putnam Valley, especially regarding the fire department lawsuit. The dumping and expensive remediation deserve attention.

    The lawsuit raises more questions about the environmental catastrophe that occurred. I am hoping they will be answered during the litigation:

    1. Why was a contractor allowed to dump thousands of yards of contaminated construction debris from a demolition site in the Bronx on the Putnam Valley Volunteer Fire Department property at no charge and with no authorization other than supposedly from one firefighter? At the time, it would have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to dispose of the debris at a licensed facility, yet John Adorno was allowed to get rid of the materials for free.

    2. Why is the PVVFD just now suing Adorno when it knew about the contamination as far back as 2016? And why is the firefighter, Charlie Milo, now the fall guy? Clearly a decision of such magnitude could not have been made by one fire-fighter, especially because PVVFD Inc. is a corporation with a board of directors.

    3. According to Planning Board and state records, more than 17,000 cubic yards of contaminated fill was dumped at the site. This means that hundreds of trucks had to enter the site. No wonder the neighbors were upset. Why did it take so long for the building inspector to figure out what was going on before he contacted the state?

    4. According to state records, during the remediation several residential wells on properties across the street were being monitored. Was any chemical contamination discovered? Is the Putnam County Board of Health checking to see if they have the same chemicals that are being found at Camp Floradan and the Putnam Valley Elementary School?

    5. Why was it that none of our elected officials, past and present, ever did anything to protect residents?

    Taxpayers have paid dearly for the negligence and hubris of whomever allowed this to happen. It is time for the Town Board to open an investigation with a view toward getting restitution.

  2. Thank you for your coverage of the soil contamination issue at the Putnam Valley firehouse construction site. I very much appreciated the article, even more so since Putnam Valley (regrettably) is not a town that is in the described coverage area of The Current. The article has stoked much interest among town residents, both in face-to-face discussions and on social media.

    1. I am glad to see that other Putnam Valley residents are taking an interest in this matter, although so far, none of our elected officials will even acknowledge the situation let alone comment on it. Tomorrow evening, Feb. 15, is the regular town board meeting. I hope that you and other neighbors will attend.

  3. I am one of many concerned Putnam Valley residents who on March 8 attended a very disappointing and frustrating Town Council meeting with representatives of the Putnam County Department of Health. The DOH was to address the presence of toxic PFAS/PFOS chemicals in our groundwater. My hope was that they would both educate and address our concerns.

    The DOH presented well-crafted information about these toxic forever chemicals, assuring us that they are indeed present in varying quantities in our groundwater (our drinking water) and elsewhere. Their primary focus seemed to be to put our concerns to rest. That did not happen. Rather than address possible solutions, we were left with further confirmation that our concerns are indeed warranted and there is no entity available to help with testing or mitigation. The DOH said that they would be available for consultation with individual homeowners but could offer no further assistance in providing testing or mitigation themselves.

    To further exacerbate residents’ frustration with this important health issue, there was absolutely no room for questions or comments. I attended this meeting to get some answers from the Town Council as to how we residents might get help. Instead, unbeknownst to me and just about everyone else present, questions addressed were to be emailed to the DOH before the meeting. It was clear that the town did not want any open discussion at which residents might express their growing concerns. To that end, apparently, this meeting was poorly publicized. As I speak to my neighbors, I find that only 1 in 25 is aware of this issue – perhaps just the way some town representatives would like it to be. The less we know, the less residents will ask of them. Let’s change this and put pressure on our representatives to support our need for clean drinking water.

    Most Putnam Valley residents own private wells. Neither the town, county nor the state has jurisdiction over private wells. They are presently not responsible. We are responsible for testing and mitigating any contaminants in our wells. In the case of toxic PFAS/PFOS, research suggests testing an individual well costs over $700; whole house mitigation costs are in the $1,000+ range. Most Putnam Valley residents find this cost prohibitive. So, the question is, when is it appropriate for government to get involved? For me, it’s when the problem is widespread and affecting the majority of people, which the DOH attested to. We just don’t know how high the levels of PFAS/PFOS are in our water.

    We have all learned about water contamination in Flint, Michigan, in Love Canal and many other places. Here it is in our very own “pristine” Putnam Valley. It is disquieting and anxiety producing. On top of this, to learn that our local government intends to do nothing is distressing. Who do regular, ordinary citizens turn to? What would it take for our local government to serve its citizens better?

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