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October 16, 2019Cart

Business

by Westchester County Business Journal
by WCBJ

Riverkeeper sues Mount Vernon scrap dealer for allegedly polluting Hutchinson River

Riverkeeper Inc. is asking a court to order a Mount Vernon scrap metal company to stop discharging pollutants into the Hutchinson River.

Riverkeeper, a nonprofit organization based in Ossining, sued J. Bass & Son Inc. on May 23 in federal district court in White Plains, claiming it has violated pollution regulations.

J. Bass & Son submitted false reports about stormwater discharges from 2010 to the present, according to the complaint, failed to do routine site inspections, and failed to use management practices required by law.

Bass’ attorney, Paul D. Casowitz, disputed the allegations.

“They have a long record of no environmental compliance issues,” he said, “and they are very proud of this.”

Bass has operated a demolition, carting and scrap metal business since 1922. Its facility on Carleton Avenue is in a heavily industrialized area of Mount Vernon near Columbus Avenue and Sandford Boulevard.

Every time it rains, according to Riverkeeper, hundreds of millions of gallons of polluted stormwater pours into the Hutchinson River, Long Island Sound, New York Harbor and other regional waterways, impairing fish habitats and recreation activities.

Bass has permits from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation that require it to monitor and mitigate pollution from three stormwater discharge points.

The problem at the Bass scrap metal yard, as Riverkeeper depicts it, is that rain falls onto greasy, oily machinery and washes away pollutants that end up in the river.

The organization claims it collected samples of discharged stormwater that contained excessive amounts of aluminum, cadmium, chromium, copper, iron, lead and zinc.

Bass routinely submitted quarterly and annual reports stating that no stormwater had been discharged from the three, permitted locations, according to Riverkeeper. It also claims that the company failed to get permits for three more locations where stormwater drains toward the river.

Casowitz said no discharges were reported because surface water flows back onto the site and seeps into the ground. The locations with no permits include a low-lying area and a rooftop where the company believes no pollution leaves the site. Those locations will be investigated, he said, and if problems are detected corrective action will be taken.

The third location without a permit refers to a place where an employee pumped water out to the street. It was a one-time mistake, Casowitz said, and the employee has been instructed on proper procedures.

He said he could not comment yet on Riverkeeper’s samples because he does not know exactly how or where they were collected. If benchmarks were exceeded, he said, the company will consider ways to mitigate the problem.

Riverkeeper brought the complaint under a provision of the Clean Water Act that allows citizens to file civil enforcement actions.

Violators can be penalized from $37,500 to $53,484 a day per violation. If Bass were fined the maximum amount for one violation, it could theoretically face an assessment of $95.6 million. That outcome, according to Casowitz, is unlikely.

“They have a pretty clean record and they’ve been around for a long time,” he said. “The principals of the company take their responsibilities seriously.”

Riverkeeper wants a federal judge to declare Bass in violation of the Clean Water Act and order the company to comply with the regulations and to pay civil penalties.

Riverkeeper is represented by attorney Mike DiGiulio of Manhattan.