In a significant development for environmental conservation in Westchester County, a federal judge has granted approval for settlements between three local Yonkers enterprises and Riverkeeper Inc.–a local environmental watchdog group. The businesses were accused of releasing harmful stormwater into the Saw Mill River.
According to a consent decree filed in White Plains U.S. District Court on July 26th, Gentile Construction Corp., All About Recycling Inc., and their CEO Joseph Gentile Jr., reached a settlement with Riverkeeper that involves implementing strict pollution prevention measures in addition to $31,000 in fees.
In a federal court consent decree filed August 1st, All County Mobile Concrete and its president John Bernal Jr. also agreed to pay fees totalling $12,500.
Located at 451 – 455 Old Nepperhan Ave., the businesses are nestled within an industrial zone of Yonkers, where the Saw Mill River navigates through a network of tunnels and culverts on its route towards the Hudson River.
Headquartered in Ossining, Riverkeeper is a non-profit organization committed to safeguarding the Hudson River watershed. The environmental group initiated legal action against these businesses last year, alleging their violation of the federal Clean Water Act.
Stringent Regulations to Protect Local Waters
Businesses situated along the Saw Mill River corridor are required to obtain state-issued pollution discharge permits and take measures to minimize the contamination of stormwater runoff.
As outlined in the Riverkeeper lawsuit, the three businesses neglected to register with the state Department of Environmental Conservation. They also operated without the required pollution permits, and failed to prevent pollutants from entering the Saw Mill River.
While the businesses have not admitted to violating the Clean Water Act, they have agreed to correct the violations through facility upgrades. As noted in the consent decrees, this settlement aims to, “avoid prolonged and costly litigation.”
Companies Blame Downstream Location
Gentile, CEO of All About Recycling Inc. and Gentile Construction Corp., argued that the stormwater on their property runs downstream from Capital Industries Corp. Riverkeeper’s lawsuit against Capital Industries Corp. is currently pending.
Gentile permitted Riverkeeper to conduct an inspection of the property. He also agreed to a broad stormwater contamination prevention plan. To ensure compliance, his companies will conduct quarterly inspections and sample stormwater four times annually. They will also notify Riverkeeper of their findings, grant them site access for quarterly inspections, and take necessary steps to curb pollution when elevated levels are identified.
Gentile Companies Released From Liabilities
While Riverkeeper has agreed to release the Gentile companies from existing liabilities, they retain the right to pursue future legal action if new instances of pollution emerge.
All County Mobile Concrete, a tenant of the Nepperhan Avenue property, is in the process of relocating to Mount Vernon. They have notified Riverkeeper of the move, and affirmed that the company has discontinued actions violating the Clean Water Act.
As part of his commitment, Bernal has agreed to ensure that either All About Recycling or a certified stormwater professional inspects the site and verifies the removal of significant materials.
The consent decrees received the approval of U.S. District Judge Philip M. Halpern. As a result of these settlements, Riverkeeper has agreed to dismiss its case.