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.
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