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DEC files suit against firm over pollution

An Ontario County contractor is responsible for at least $1.4 million in costs the state Department of Environmental Conservation has racked up so far to protect the town of Victor’s water supply, the state regulator claims.

Syracusa Sand & Gravel Inc.’s failure to stem ground water and air pollution from its gravel pit is endangering the town’s water supply and causing air pollution, the DEC claims in a lawsuit.

Firm owner Scott Syracusa said in an interview Thursday that he already partially resolved the matter, signing a consent order calling for his firm to reimburse any sellers of town of Victor homes whose properties lost value because of the pollution.

The order, which awaits a judge’s signature, calls for his firm to make up the difference between what any such sellers would have received if they had not been in the pollution’s path. 

Filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Rochester, the court action alleges that toxins, including trichloroethene, emanating from the contracting firm’s 173-acre town of Victor gravel pit are migrating into Modock Springs, the source of Victor’s water.

Known as TCEs, such toxins are used to clean machine parts. 

According to the court complaint, state investigators first found pollutants leaching into the town’s water supply and some area private wells from the Syracusa Sand & Gravel site in 1990, detecting high levels of the toxic solvents then. 

In 2001, the DEC found the site to be “presenting a significant threat to the public health or environment requiring action.” In 2008 the regulatory agency issued a ruling calling for Syracuse Sand & Gravel to take steps to contain a toxic plume in area ground water and cap harmful air emissions, the court action states. 

The Victor contracting firm has a duty to determine the extent of contamination and to fix problems stemming from its alleged release of toxic substances but “failed and refused to perform these duties,” the DEC claims. 

More will be required beyond the $1.4 million the state has spent on efforts to investigate and contain the toxic plume. Money it has spent and costs it will incur in an ongoing cleanup should be borne by Syracusa Sand & Gravel, the DEC maintains.

The lawsuit is only an opening salvo, fired by the state as the first step toward a negotiated settlement, Scott Syracusa said.

See the Friday edition of the Rochester Business Journal for additional information.

(c) 2016 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or e-mail rbj@rbj.net.
 

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