Not in Westchester County?
September 23, 2019Cart

Business

by Westchester County Business Journal
by WCBJ

Battery power versus nuclear power, in Mount Kisco contamination lawsuit

The Environmental Protection Agency has monitored radioactive contamination at a Mount Kisco site for decades, according to a lawsuit, but until a year ago the federal agency had not shared concerns with the owner of an adjacent property that houses a Tesla dealership.

“EPA now places some urgency on a matter that has not been the subject of urgency for decades,” Victor Cannistra says in a court affidavit, “and is making unreasonable demands to access our property.”

Cannistra Realty LLC sued the EPA April 22 in federal court, White Plains, for a declaration stating that the agency has abused its discretion.

Cannistra Realty does not object to the EPA testing its property, according to the complaint, but it wants the work done after normal business hours so as not to disrupt the Tesla operations.

The Tesla store is next to the property where Canadian Radium and Uranium Corp. produced materials for the Manhattan Project’s development of atomic weapons for World War II. In 1942 it began refining uranium sludge into highly radioactive materials, at 105 Kisco Ave. After the war, it produced commercial quality radioactive materials.

Contamination was discovered as early as 1957 and the company tried to clean up the property up to 1966. The Mount Kisco Urban Renewal Agency bought the site and tried to clean it up, according to records in other lawsuits, but a contractor caused more contamination by releasing radioactive materials into the soil.

Federal, state and local agencies have investigated the site since the late 1970s.

For 25 years, accountant Victor Cannistra worked next to the site, at 115-125 Kisco Ave. He and his father bought the half-acre lot and two-story building in 1996. In 2013 they moved their accounting firm and leased the property to Tesla.

Cannistra says he was unaware of the Canadian Radium site, until the EPA contacted him a year ago, or of EPA concerns “that contamination may have migrated onto our property.”

The EPA wants to place radon canisters on his property, do a radiological survey and take 10 or more soil samples over four to six days.

Cannistra says Mount Kisco is Tesla’s number one sales center in the Northeast. He asked the agency to do its work after business hours, so as not to interfere with sales and car repairs, disrupt 25 employees, obstruct the typically crowded parking lot or expose customers to risks. The firm asked the EPA to require the contractors to add Tesla as an insured party on their insurance policies.

Cannistra also offered to provide lighting and cover any overtime costs for doing the work at night.

“EPA refused to cooperate,” the complaint states, or “take into account Cannistra and its tenant’s legitimate business and safety concerns.”

The EPA issued an administrative order on March 12, directing Cannistra to provide “unfettered access to the property,” the complaint states.

Cannistra claims the order is invalid because it does not describe the property, recognize its use by a car dealership or identify, as required by EPA regulations, reasonable times for doing the work.

Cannistra is asking the court to declare that the EPA order violates the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980 and to strike the order as an abuse of discretion for failure to consider reasonable hours for the work.

EPA spokesman Elias Rodriguez said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.

Cannistra is represented by Nicholas M. Ward-Willis, of Keane & Beane, White Plains.