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Gioia sues concrete company for Newtown pollution

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An environmental watchdog group and City Councilman Eric Gioia (D-Sunnyside) announced last week that they will seek legal action against a major concrete manufacturer on Newtown Creek for violations of federal environmental laws.

Gioia and Riverkeeper are alleging that NYCON Supply Corporation in Long Island City has been illegally discharging concrete waste without a permit into Dutch Kills, a tributary of the heavily polluted Newtown Creek, violating both the Clean Water Act and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

"For too long, Newtown Creek has been the forgotten waterway of New York City, and polluters have taken advantage by dumping with impunity," Gioia said in a statement. "... We will not stand for more dumping and more pollution in the creek."

Riverkeeper officials said they have observed NYCON dumping concrete waste into the waterway without the required Clean Water Act permit several times during patrols of the creek. They also observed piles of gravel and layers of concrete covering the riverbed adjacent to the NYCON facility.

An owner or manager at NYCON was not available to comment by press time Tuesday.

Craig Michaels, an investigator for Riverkeeper, said concrete dumping raises the acidity in the creek to "alkaline" levels.

"Those conditions generally make it much tougher to sustain aquatic life in the creek," he said. "At the same time, given the nature of concrete, the water's much cloudier or turbid. It's not muddy, but more milky. It means less oxygen for things to live in there."

Both the Clean Water Act and RCRA authorize citizen groups to sue polluters, subjecting potential violators to up to $32,500 in penalties per day per violation. NYCON will have 60 days to respond to the alleged Clean Water Act violations and 90 days to respond to the alleged RCRA violations, Michaels said.

"This provides them an opportunity to examine what they're doing and to take action to avoid lawsuits," he said. "I think more and more now, companies are realizing that the cost of compliance is actually going to be cheaper than the cost of a lawsuit."

This summer has been eventful for Newtown Creek, the site of a massive oil spill believed to have started anywhere from 50 to 100 years ago. A 2007 study by the state Department of Environmental Conservation estimated the spill's size at between 17 million and 30 million gallons.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency last month committed to an analysis of four sites at Newtown Creek to determine if the waterway should be designated a Superfund area.

The New York State Appellate Division recently reinstated criminal dumping indictments against another concrete company, Quality Concrete, located on the Brooklyn side of Newtown Creek.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at jwalsh@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

Posted 6:38 pm, October 10, 2011
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