Snow Mountain Leads to Contamination Complaint

 Pearl River supermarket and nasty winter blamed for High School pollution

BY ROBERT KNIGHT
CITY EDITOR
ROCKLAND COUNTY TIMES

Several Pearl River residents attacked a supermarket in her community at the town board meeting last week for allegedly creating snow piles whose contents ultimately contaminated the grounds of the Pearl River High School. They demanded that Orangetown officials act immediately to prevent another instance.

Helen Shaw presented photographs and testimony at a Town Board meeting Tuesday, alleging that the Shop Rite Supermarket at Central Avenue and Middletown Road was poisoning the lawns, trees and landscaping at the adjacent school by dumping a mountain of “dirty” snow, laden with rock salt, on school property and without school permission.

Town Supervisor Andy Stewart said he and other town officials were already aware of the complaint, and had assigned various town department heads to investigate the allegations, and to recommend to the board what action the town should take if they turned out to be true.

At the time of the meeting, Stewart said he hadn’t heard back from those officials yet, but was awaiting reports from the building inspector, the highway superintendent and others, which he anticipated would be within a day or two.

Shop Rite Blamed

According to Mrs. Shaw, later supported by her husband and other neighbors, Shop Rite has been salting their large parking lots and then plowing them, and dumping the resultant mountains of dirty snow on a vacant lot they own behind their supermarket and surrounded on three sides by high school property.

The mountains of snow were 10 to 15 feet high, she said, the height of a two-story building. Not only do they block the view of the school from East Central avenue, she claimed, but the slowly melting snow is dissolving and running off onto the adjacent school property, which contains “lush lawns and lots of mature white pine trees,” among other plantings and landscaping, all of which she contended are being poisoned and destroyed by the high salt content of the runoff.

The salt is ruining the well-manicured and freshly seeded lawns which look beautiful around the high school and are a pride to the community, Mrs. Shaw told the board. It is also soaking into the ground and poisoning the 30-foot shallow diameter roots of the fragile white pine trees, she added, and is sure to kill them in the near future.

She also wanted to know why the mountains of snow are dark black in color, when both the snow and the salt are white or colorless. She said she felt Shop Rite must be dumping something else along with the snow onto the vacant lot, and she wanted the town to find out what it is.

Home Demolished

She also noted that the supermarket had originally bought the lot, with a house on it, for expanded customer parking. When the town denied this request, Shop Rite leveled the house and paved part of the lot anyway, and claimed it was now for employee parking instead of the general public. But Shop Rite isn’t allowing their staff to park there now, she alleged, and is instead using it as a public dump for the dirty snow from their own customer parking lots along Central Avenue and Middletown Road.

The lawns and the trees at the school can’t tolerate that high a level of salt contamination and may be dead by spring, Mrs. Shaw predicted in urging the board to halt the practice immediately. She added that the lot on which they are dumping is still zoned residential, and should not be used for commercial purposes such as dumping commercially plowed snow.

Neither Building Inspector John Giardiello nor Highway Superintendent James Dean was present at the meeting, leaving the Town Board with no response to Mrs. Shaw’s complaint.

Mrs. Shaw’s husband, after submitting photos of the snow mountains, also complained that Shop Rite’s privately contracted snow removal company worked all night from 9 p.m. until 6 a.m. with large and loud equipment continuously plowing the supermarket lots, dumping the snow into huge trucks, and then dumping the snow in the vacant lot, keeping several neighbors awake all night from the loud noises.

He and his wife urged the town to restrict such commercial operations to daylight hours rather than annoying residents trying to sleep at night.