Tuesday, July 22, 2008


It may not seem like a big deal to you, but to some folks who live in Hudson Falls, New York, living next door to a used auto parts and scrap metal business (pictured here) has been a nightmare.

They've been complaining about that nightmare for a LONG time to no avail.

Craig Richard is one of those who have had the scrap yard as a neighbor. He realized when he was buying his house it was across from a junkyard. Until a fence was erected, it was about all he could see from his front window as a matter of fact.

What he didn't know was that years earlier, state officials discovered the toxic gasoline additive methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) spreading from the site into groundwater beneath Richard's neighborhood -- just outside Hudson Falls, beyond the reach of municipal water. Richards like many of his neighbors get their water from their own private well.

Then, in 2004, a stream of runoff laced with gasoline and antifreeze flowed past Richard's house and heightened his concern.

Anyway, finally, the New York State Attorney General has heard their voices...in an election year no less.

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is suing the owners of the Washington County junkyard for years of environmental damage.

Cuomo announced he is suing the owners of East Side Used Auto Parts because the company did not properly dispose of chemicals when crushing cars. Gasoline, antifreeze, freon and petroleum all seeped into the soil.

The Attorney General's Office filed its first lawsuit against East Side Auto in 2007 in an attempt to recoup state money spent on a cleanup at the junkyard. That litigation is still pending.

Since 2003 the owners have been repeatedly cited by the Department of Environmental Conservation for mishandling waste and illegally releasing harmful chemicals into the environment.

Where had the state of New York been for all those years while the junkyard which borders a residential neighborhood on three sides and a public school on the fourth made many people ill and caused untold damage to the local environment?

Be that as it may, resident Jim Quinlan is happy something is finally being done. He told WNYT, "The victory is for the residents of Harrison Avenue, because this problem has been going on for such a long time." Jim lives near the facility and has spoken out at public meeting on problems for many years. Quinlan said some residents are afraid to drink their water or open their windows.

"They had headaches and asthma problems so it just worsened as time went on," he said.

Bobby Marro denies his family-run business is storing batteries and tires improperly or that pollution from their junkyard could be making some residents sick.

"People are complaining of health problems, you know, there's nothing that we're doing that would cause any problems," said Marro.

Nah, couldn't be happening.

By the way, you still may be thinking this is just a small problem bugging a few people.

Think again.

Roughly 1.3 million New York citizens drink water from private wells they know little about and almost never test for water quality. That is about 7 percent of all New York state residents receiving minimal or no screening of the water they drink. No one in government even knows for sure the location of thousands of private wells statewide -- a substantial blind spot in the state's ability to warn people of underground water pollution.

The danger extends well beyond MTBE, a gasoline additive that dissolves in water and lingers underground. The state mandates stringent testing for dozens of contaminants in larger public water supplies, but no standards exist for private water sources.

Protection for private wells has for decades depended on a hodgepodge of local laws that vary greatly among New York's 62 counties. As a 1998 study by the state Department of Health put it: "Private wells lack the protection many public drinking water supplies enjoy.''

"You get a water main break in the city, they say boil your water,'' said Richard, of Kingsbury. "Then they say, `You have a private well? Drink whatever you want.'''

It is a serious problem that some say begins with a basic misconception.

"Somehow we've gotten this sense that people who are on private wells are living in pristine areas,'' said Paul Pontoro, chief of the water resources office for the Suffolk County Department of Health. The reality is quite often the opposite.

I have a feeling the problem doesn't just exist in the great state of New York.

Public health officials almost universally agree that everyone with a private well should test at least annually for bacteria, which can be present almost anywhere and can sicken and kill more quickly than MTBE or other toxic chemicals. Many people only test their wells for bacteria when banks require it before approving a mortgage on their home.

"Cancer is a horrendously scary thing,'' said said Andy Barber, a hydrogeochemist with engineering firm Barton & Loguidice. "Is (MTBE) a health hazard? No doubt about it. But if you have your own on-site water system, there are others, too.''

Keep that in mind my friends who enjoy living "out in the country."

The following is from TWEAN News Channel of Albany,

Neighbors react to AG's lawsuit against East Side Auto

HUDSON FALLS, N.Y. - People who live near East Side Auto Used Auto Parts in Hudson Falls are upset. They've complained about East Side saying the business contaminated the air and water by demolishing cars there that still had gas and oil inside. Now the state Attorney General's office has filed a lawsuit against the business.

Hudson Falls resident Jim Quinlan said, "Not just the residents in Kingbury, but the children who go to the Middle School just across the road should be concerned."

Quinlan says not only do people in the area deal with the noise all day, but they're concerned about possible PCB contamination from the recycling of certain metals.

Quinlan told us, "White metals are old washers and dryers, and some communities in some states don't even take them in. They have to be recycled properly. They just take them in here, and the old white metals have PCBs in them, so that's another concern."

East Side takes in scrap metal. We couldn't ask them about white metal because they did not want to talk to us. Meanwhile, other residents down the road said while they aren't too concerned, they're siding with their neighbors who are.

Local resident John Hogan said, "If my neighbors have a problem, I'll support my neighbors."

Some of the other neighbors who didn't want to talk on camera tell us sometimes the noise is so bad that their pets are too scared to go outside. Not only that, some of the people who used to live here actually moved out of town because of East Side Auto.

As for Hogan, he said he thinks the town's decision to work with the business to get it moved to another location is the best case scenario.

Hogan said, "I hear about where they're moving. It's down a ways. A lot of land. I'm sure it's hard for the guy. It's a hardship moving, and he's put a lot of money into the community here, but how much do you sacrifice for money?"

1 comment:

urajerk said...

Does anyone live in a subdivision where there are several people who ignore the subdivision rules?
I do. No one is supposed to have those ugly fences on the top of their pools, and it seems that everyone in the sub with a pool has one of those. My neighbor has one, and I have to look at that hideous thing every time I look out my window. Then there is my other neighbor who has three dogs. The maximum number of dogs is supposed to be two. I wouldn't mind the three, but two of them are pit bulls who viciously snarl and growl and act like they are going to eat my dog when they are outside. Even the owners scream at them to stop. It is very unnerving. Then one of the board members is delinquent by 3 years on the dues because she has decided she doesn't need to pay since she is on the board. I can't take the neighbors around here. I was looking for a forum to vent about the jerks around here and I came across this site called http://urajerk.com and I sent all of those idiots on the board and all my lovely neighbors with the ugly pools an anonymous card. LOL I loved it. I know it sounds stupid but I feel better. He he he