Editor’s Note: Larchmont resident Salvatore Cascino also owns land in Columbia County. The following article appeared on April 13 in The Register Star Online.
Bronx-based waste hauling businessman and Copake farmland owner Salvatore Cascino was arraigned Monday [April 12] in Columbia County Supreme Court on an indictment filed by Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s Office.
The Attorney General alleges that Cascino, through his business Bronx County Recycling LLC, illegally disposed of 70 cubic yards of solid waste and petroleum at an unpermitted, and as yet undisclosed, facility off Route 9G in Clermont in violation of state Environmental Conservation Law.
Cuomo’s office also filed a motion seeking to force Cascino and his businesses, 13 Lackawanna Properties LLC and Copake Valley Farm LLC, to comply with a 2007 court settlement barring any dumping at his farm on Lackawanna Road off Route 7A in Copake.
Cuomo, as well as Columbia County’s state representatives, had strong words for Cascino, who has been involved in numerous other lawsuits relating to the dumping of waste and illegal construction in Copake, Dover Plains and other sites.
“This individual disregarded public safety and left Columbia County residents and the surrounding environment to pay the price,” said Cuomo. “My office will vigorously enforce environmental laws that protect the health and safety of the people of Columbia County and across New York.”
Cascino, a 70-year-old resident of Larchmont in Westchester County, and his LLCs, which were represented in court by separate legal counsel, were charged with one count of operating an unpermitted landfill and one count of fourth-degree endangering public health, safety, or the environment. Both charges are misdemeanors with the maximum penalty of up to two years in prison.
Cascino was released on his own recognizance pending a May 10 court appearance before Judge Jonathan Nichols.
At the end of the arraignment a new memorandum of law was also filed against Cascino and his businesses by New York State Assistant Attorney General Michael Myers in regards to the multiple alleged violations in Copake.
“This case began with the hard work of our Bureau of Environmental Crimes Investigation, which specifically targets high-level and serious offenses,” State Environmental Conservation Commissioner Pete Grannis said. “This is not the first time DEC has teamed with the Attorney General’s Office to put a stop to Mr. Cascino’s illegal activities. Our joint effort sends a clear message that the state will prosecute such cases to the fullest extent in order to prevent improper dumping and ensure a safe environment.”
Cascino’s primary legal counsel Dennis B. Schlenker was unavailable for comment after the proceedings. A receptionist at Schlenker’s Albany law office said he had a busy schedule Monday and he would likely not be able to comment until today.
Assemblyman Marcus Molinaro, R,C,I-Red Hook, and State Sen. Stephen Saland, R,C,I-Poughkeepsie, who have been following the cases against Cascino for years and supported the municipalities that bought actions against the businessman and his companies, voiced their gratitude Monday for the actions of the Attorney General’s Office.
“This is the type of aggressive enforcement Senator Saland and myself have been waiting for,” said Molinaro, whose district covers both Copake and Dover Plains. “The Attorney General has done the people of Columbia County and the state a great deal of justice.”
Molinaro said the recent actions take the burden of expensive monitoring and enforcement off of the small towns and taxpayers that do not have the resources to fight Cascino as he tries to “outpace and exhaust” rural municipalities.
“The Attorney General is saying to Cascino that these are the laws of our state, you have to adhere to them or there are consequences,” the assemblyman added.
The investigation that brought about the latest charges involved two years of research and footwork by Investigator Jesse Paluch of the New York state Environmental Conservation Police, Bureau of Environmental Crimes Investigation. An Sept. 30, 2009, representatives of the Attorney General’s Office and Department of Environmental Conservation executed a search warrant at Cascino’s Copake farm regarding the suspected unlawful disposal of solid waste, the memorandum of law submitted to the court states.
“Material not only resembled (construction and demolition) debris in appearance, but had the spongy feel of processed C&D debris as well,” said DEC Investigator Richard Dana.
According to the memorandum, the laboratory analysis of the sample, which DEC did not receive until Feb. 22, showed that the C&D debris was approximately 2.2 percent asbestos by weight — more than twice the acceptable legal limit.
“Although the court’s order granting the town’s contempt motion already requires defendants to remove this waste,” Myers’ filing states, “the state seeks to have (the) defendants clean up the waste on an expedited schedule and to take several precautions to guard against potential hazards from the asbestos present in the waste.”
The alleged findings show that Cascino violated a former legal decision against him, ordering him to discontinue any additional dumping or building. He also allegedly violated Environmental Conservation Law.
The state’s actions against Cascino regarding actions at his farm began on March 5, 2007, with the filing of a summons and verified complaint which alleged violations of “wetlands, stream protection, storm water permitting, and solid waste laws stemming from (Cascino’s) construction and filling activities.”
The state’s lawsuit was filed several months after the town of Copake filed its suit against Cascino. Judge Nichols sided with the town’s motion for a temporary restraining order to prohibit further building or dumping at that time.
After negotiations the town and Cascino entered into a consent decree on July 18, 2007 ordering Cascino to halt the undesired activity and pay civil penalties.
However the town filed motions in 2007 and 2008 seeking to hold defendants in civil and criminal contempt of the restraining order, alleging that the dumping had continued. The court found Cascino and his operation to be in contempt. Cascino is currently appealing the decision in the New York State Court of Appeals in Albany.
The new action by the state seeks the court to find that Cascino “address any public health hazard posed by the waste by requiring Defendants — under DEC supervision and pursuant to a DEC schedule — to promptly remediate the waste by (1) covering the pile in which DEC has identified the asbestos, (2) determining whether there is additional asbestos waste on the Site, (3) removing all asbestos waste, and (4) disposing of such waste at a facility licensed to accept it. The State also requests that the Court assess stipulated penalties for Defendants’ violations of the consent decree.”
The criminal case was handled by Assistant Attorney General James Woods and Assistant Attorney General Catherine Leahy Scott under the supervision of Criminal Prosecutions Bureau Deputy Chief Richard Ernst and Bureau Chief Gail Heatherly.
To reach reporter Jamie Larson, call 518-828-1616, ext. 2269, or e-mail email@example.com.
Re-posted with permission of The Register Star Online.