U.S. Attorney Sues Ramapo Over Violations Of Federal Clean Water Act

Town agrees to redress violations, pay $125,000 penalty

BY BILL DEMAREST

Originally published by the Nyack Free Press

POMONA – Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Colonel Paul E. Owen, Commander of the New York District of the United States Army Corps of Engineers, announced today that the United States has filed and simultaneously entered into a consent decree settling a civil lawsuit against the Town of Ramapo for violations of the Clean Water Act (“CWA”) at Provident Bank Park in Pomona.

Bharara stated: “The Town of Ramapo repeatedly violated the laws protecting our Nation’s wetlands. Municipalities will be held accountable if they violate our environmental laws. Today’s consent decree will require Ramapo to pay a penalty for its repeated violations and create new wetlands to offset the damage it caused.”

Owen stated: “As one of the key regulatory agencies with regard to the Clean Water Act, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is committed to protecting the environment and the communities it benefits. This will continue to be of the utmost importance.”

According to the Complaint filed in White Plains federal court, in 2010 Ramapo illegally discharged fill material into wetlands that are waters of the United States, as part of its construction of its minor league baseball stadium. Only after filling these wetlands did Ramapo apply for and receive a permit from the Corps of Engineers relating to these wetlands.

The permit required Ramapo to mitigate the effects of its prior illegal discharge by creating additional wetlands and securing a conservation easement to preserve those wetlands indefinitely. To the present, Ramapo has failed to comply with these permit requirements. In fact, after applying for the permit, Ramapo illegally discharged even more unpermitted fill material in violation of the CWA.

In the consent decree filed today, Ramapo admits and accepts responsibility for the violations, including the following:

  • “[T]he Town’s unpermitted discharge of fill material” in 2010 led to a “loss of wetlands that are waters of the United States.”
  • “The Town has failed to comply with” the permit issued to it by the Corps of Engineers after its initial violation.
  • After applying for the permit, RAMAPO again “illegally discharged fill material” into “wetlands that are waters of the United States.”
  • “As a result, the Town is, and since at least June 14, 2011, has been, in violation of the Permit and the CWA.”

Pursuant to the consent decree filed today in the United States District Court in White Plains, Ramapo will pay a civil penalty of $125,000 and will establish approximately 2.2 acres of new wetlands to compensate for the wetlands that were improperly filled during the construction of the stadium. In addition, Ramapo will ensure that a conservation easement is placed on the property to preserve the newly-established wetlands in perpetuity as a purely natural area. Ramapo will be subject to substantial additional penalties if it fails to adhere to any of the deadlines in the consent decree.

The consent decree will be lodged with the District Court for a period of at least 30 days before it is submitted for the Court’s approval, to provide public notice and to afford members of the public the opportunity to comment on the consent decree.

This case is being handled by the Office’s Environmental Protection Unit. Assistant United States Attorney Andrew E. Krause is in charge of the case.

Republished with permission

Comments

  1. Ramapo Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence is a chronic violator of state environmental law and every time Ramapo is fined we, the citizens of Ramapo, not St. Lawrence, pay the fines.

    When Ramapo developed the Elm Street project it destroyed wetlands and was ordered to create new wetlands. Instead it piled dirt on top of the land that was supposed to become the new wetland.

    St. Lawrence’s record with the stadium is even worse. First the town filled in one of the required drainage ponds with dirt. The DEC ordered it to correct the problem. So it first tried to remove the soil from the site. Then, after it was caught it piled it up high.

    The irony is that I warnedSt. Lawrence that his “remediation” of the site would create the very problem he claimed he would solve. Again, as with the Elm Street site he promised to remediate the problem he create and then did nothing.

    And what about the construction firm that was paid millions of dollars to supervise construction? Is it true that the firm’s owner was best man at county executive Scott Vanderhoef’s wedding?

    Isn’t it time to charge St. Lawrence with criminal activities and time to ask him to pay the fines and remediate his environmental crimes at his own expense?

    Robert I. Rhodes, Chairman, Preserve Ramapo, http://www.PreserveRamapo.org