CANTON — More details were released by the state attorney general’s office about charges brought against a Potsdam car dealership for allegedly burying drums containing more than 140 gallons of hazardous substances on the dealership’s property.
On Tuesday, a 12-count indictment signed by Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman was unsealed in St. Lawrence County Court charging Mahoney’s Auto Mall Inc., of 7513 Route 11, Potsdam, and Mahoney’s employee Andrew Fuller, 33, of 52 County Route 31, of Madrid, each with a count of felony third-degree endangering public health, safety or the environment and eight counts of misdemeanor fourth-degree endangering public health, safety or the environment.
The felony charge carries a potential prison sentence of up to four years and a maximum fine of $150,000. The misdemeanor charges each carry a potential jail sentence of up to one year and a maximum fine of $37,500.
Mahoney’s Auto Mall Inc. was charged with two additional counts of fourth-degree endangering public health, safety or the environment and violating environmental conservation law, all misdemeanors. The violation of the environmental conservation law carries a minimum fine of $3,750 and a maximum fine of up to $22,500 per day of violation.
Cornelius J. Mahoney, owner of Mahoney’s Auto Mall, was not immediately available for comment and a message seeking comment was not returned.
According to Assistant Attorney General Andrew J. Tarkowski, who is prosecuting the case, the investigation by the DEC revealed that in June 2014, Mr. Fuller allegedly buried drums of used oil, containers of used oil filters, and tires on the Mahoney’s property.
The discovery came following the execution of a search warrant on July 21, 2014, by DEC police and regulators which authorized them to excavate the waste buried at Mahoney’s. The excavation led to the uncovering of four 55-gallon drums containing approximately 142 gallons of liquid, several containers of used oil filters, and approximately 20 tires, Mr. Tarkowski said during arraignment. According to lab results, he said the four drums contained the hazardous substance benzene at levels in excess of 0.5 milligrams per liter, toluene, ethyl-benzene, and xylene.
“Failing to properly dispose of hazardous material jeopardizes the health of New Yorkers and the surrounding environment,” Mr. Schneiderman said in his release. “We will continue to hold polluters responsible for their actions and will not hesitate to vigorously enforce our state’s environmental laws.”
Moreover, Wednesday’s news release revealed that DEC officials said they found an open, unprotected pile of solid waste measuring 33 feet in width by 25 feet in length adjacent to the excavated waste area consisting of construction and demolition debris, roofing material, household trash, clothing, furniture and bedding, which constituted the operation of a solid waste management facility.
It is illegal to construct or operate such a facility without first obtaining a permit from the DEC and, according to DEC records, Mahoney’s neither applied for nor received the necessary permit, the release stated.
DEC officials reported that inside the auto shop, they discovered a concrete channel dug into the floor that 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,” Mr. Schneiderman’s release stated. “DEC officials 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.”
Defense attorney Emil M. Rossi, of Rossi Law Offices, Syracuse, who appeared on behalf of Mahoney’s Auto Mall, pleaded not guilty on behalf of the corporation. Mr. Fuller was also arraigned with St. Lawrence County Assistant Public Defender James T. Farrell and pleaded not guilty to the charges against him. He was released on his own recognizance.