A show cause order was filed by the Putnam Valley Fire Department against a construction company owner accused of transporting and dumping contaminated material where the new Oscawana Lake Road firehouse is being built.
The order, filed on Jan. 20 with Judge Victor Grossman in Putnam County Supreme Court, named John Adorno of the Yorktown-based Universal Construction. An order often precedes a formal lawsuit.
The filing states that Adorno in 2016 was responsible for dumping the soil and fill at the property at 18 Oscawana Lake Rd. The judge’s order requires Adorno to respond to the petition by appearing in court on Feb. 14, where he will be asked to present relevant documents, the names of those involved in dumping the fill and any payments made to him for the material.
Calls from The Putnam Examiner to Adorno for comment last week were not returned.
When asked why the fire department was initiating legal action against Adorno six years after the incident, fire department President Sheryl Luongo said she “didn’t want to comment at this time.”
E-mails to Shawn Keeler, vice president of the Putnam Valley Fire Department Board of Commissioners and to Luongo’s husband Louie Luongo, a department member, went unanswered.
The dumping was done without a permit and was classified as a violation by the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). The department paid a $5,000 fine in January 2019. The cost to the fire department to clean up the site was about $2 million.
The fire department is in the midst of a five-year contract with the town for $1 million annually for fire protections services, money that comes from the general town budget, according to former Putnam Valley supervisor Same Oliverio, who was in office at the time of the dumping incident.
“We collect that amount as a separate fund, which is paid for by taxpayers,” Oliverio said.
A 2016 DEC site visit report on the investigation obtained by The Examiner of the dumping revealed that fireman Charlie Milo, who is still listed on the department’s website as an active member, had given Adorno permission to dump the fill. The report showed that “Mr. Adorno stated that some of the fill had come from a demolition site on Water Street in the Bronx and from Metro Green processing facility in Mount Vernon, N.Y.”
Among the town’s public records is a 2019 memo from hydrogeologist John Benvegna, who was then monitoring the remediation, confirming total fill was a little over 17,000 cubic yards and was 25 feet deep.
Wendy Rosenbach, the DEC’s regional public participation specialist, said the cleanup at the fire department’s property was completed in July 2021 under “stringent DEC oversight.” It included the removal of 83 tons of asbestos waste and 4,236 tons of contaminated soils and the capping of the remaining material.
“The DEC is currently overseeing the closure of the Putnam Valley Volunteer Fire Department Landfill to ensure protection of public health and the environment,” Rosenbach said.
According to the DEC’s November 2022 Closure Certification report regarding the agency’s 2018 Consent Order, the contaminants of concern included semi-volatile organic compounds, seven metal compounds, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and pesticides. Construction and demolition debris included bricks, asphalt and concrete in a sand and silt soil mixture.
HDR, a firm hired by the fire department to work on the remediation and investigate nearby drinking water wells, dug six test wells near the site on Cranberry Pond Road and Wildflower Lane.
Shanna Siegel, public information officer for the Putnam County Department of Health (PCDOH), said those specific wells were not tested by the health department.
“The PCDOH regulates wells for individual homes only at the time of construction,” Siegel stated.
The hazardous waste dumped at the site falls within the aquifer protection zone, which is outlined in an official ground and surface water protection overlay map produced for Putnam County in 2007 by Chazen Engineering in Poughkeepsie. The aquifer protection zone is closely regulated because it impacts the region’s drinking water.
Recent concerns about contamination in local drinking water were raised within the past month when the Putnam Valley School District sued more than 20 major chemical companies that manufacture products containing toxic chemicals that were found contaminating the drinking water at the elementary school.
Siegel said that the well at the Putnam Valley Ambulance Corps, which is located near where the fire department is building the new firehouse, was tested as part of construction compliance in 2003 and was acceptable for all safety parameters tested at the time. A new well that will serve the Putnam Valley Fire Department was drilled in December 2020 and was tested for more than 100 parameters and was also deemed acceptable for all purposes.
Additional testing will be required prior to when the well goes into service and may include added safety parameters based on findings and/or changes in regulations.
Siegel said outreach to inform the community about the local drinking water status is being discussed.
“The PCDOH is in communication with the appropriate state level authorities including the (state) DEC to assess the need for any additional interventions, which may include expanded testing,” Siegel said.
Abby is a local journalist who has reported on breaking news for more than 20 years. She currently covers community issues in The Examiner as a full-time reporter and has written for the paper since its inception in 2007. Read more from Abby’s editor-author bio here. Read Abbys’s archived work here: https://www.theexaminernews.com/author/ab-lub2019/