Apprehensive neighbors, afraid for their drinking water and exasperated by what they say is a loud and constant procession of debris-laden 18-wheelers, anxiously await an April 18 town Zoning Board of Appeals meeting that, they hope, will spur the shutdown of a local construction and demolition debris dumping operation.
After local businessman Joe Karolys successfully blocked in court the implementation of a series of stop-work orders issued by the town against dumping at his properties at 1446 Route 212, 90 Goat Hill Road, 33 Fel Qui Road and 43 Fel Qui Road, town officials are trying to get the orders to stick. State Supreme Court Judge Richard Mott’s ruling on Karolys’ Article 78 proceeding called upon the town ZBA to vote to reaffirm the stop-work orders. The board is expected to make its decision at a special meeting on Thursday, April 18 at 6:30 p.m. at the Senior Center, 207 Market St. (The meeting is open to the public, but no public comment will be allowed.) If the ZBA does vote to re-affirm the orders, then the case goes back to Judge Mott for a final ruling.
Residents at an April 9 meeting at Woodstock Day School on the matter said they suspect the Karolys properties are taking in contaminated C&D debris fill. (Karolys denies this is the case.) However, town officials say, Karolys is violating town law, which states that only C&D waste from within Saugerties can be dumped in Saugerties. Officials also say Karolys is working outside of the parameters of his pre-existing permit, which only allows trucking and excavating at the sites. (Karolys also denies this is the case.)
Town Supervisor Fred Costello Jr. said last week that the town has been in contact with both the state and county health departments, the state Department of Environmental Conservation, Ulster County legislators, Congressman Antonio Delgado, state Sen. George Amedore and Acting County Executive Adele Reiter.
Meanwhile, the DEC has been carrying out independent water testing under the state’s Inactive Landfill Initiative, but it’s unclear whether the timing of the tests are correlated with Karolys’ dumping and/or work at the old landfill on the solar farm.
According to Costello, the town has sampled test wells on the landfill site since 1997. This year, for what Costello said is the first time, one of those wells “tested an elevated, not an unhealthy elevation, but an elevated level of one of the things that they test for.” At its April 3 meeting, the town board approved the testing of a homeowner’s well at 13 Sawood Lane, which is in the geological flow path of the groundwater from the site, to see if contaminants appear. Thus far on other Sawood Lane properties, Jerry Lerner and a woman who asked to remain unidentified have received bottled water from the agency, and have shared with the Saugerties Times test results indicating that 1,4-Dioxane, an organic compound deemed “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen,” and PFAs have been found in their well water.
Newsday reported last week that 1,4-Dioxane had been found in 82 drinking wells on Long Island; according to Karolys’ testimony at ZBA meetings, his debris comes from Long Island and parts of New York City.
More specifically, according to the Permitted C&D Handling and Recovery Facility Annual Report filed last year with the DEC for Karolys & Son, the rubble on his properties consists of: asphalt pavement from New York Paving and Direct Haul in Queens; asphalt pavement from Jr.’s Premium Trucking in the Bronx; concrete from Evergreen Recycling of Corona, Durante Brothers and American Recycling Management in Queens; rock from Regal Recycling Company, Atlas Roll Off and Direct Haul of Queens; soil from Regal Recycling Company and from Direct Hail in the Bronx. Almost half of all the material received in 2018, according to Karolys’ documentation, is asphalt (10,702 tons out of a reported total tonnage of 22,303).
But those numbers don’t seem to corroborate with reports from neighbors claiming that 25 to 30 trucks dump refuse on the site per day. According to The Trucker’s Report, an 18-wheeler can accommodate 80,000 pounds, or 40 tons per load. Town attorney John Greco said a town engineer who examined the mounds of fill on the Route 212 property estimated that, in total, about 41,000 tons of material had accumulated.
Questions, but no answers
Comment on this matter has been sought from Karolys by this newspaper. Karolys agreed to be interviewed only via email and if he could get the questions in advance.
This list of five questions was sent on Friday, April 12:
• What do you think will happen at Thursday’s ZBA meeting?
• Once the material gets to you, what happens then?
• Do you do any testing yourself to make sure that it is safe to have on your property and around you and your family?
• Is there anything you think you can do to make your neighbors less worried about your operation?
• How has life changed for you and your family since the town placed stop work orders on your work sites? Have you faced significant pushback from the community? How about your wife and your kids?
But Karolys, as of 4 p.m. Wednesday, April 17, never responded to our email. This reporter called the office of his attorney, Melvin T. Higgins, three days in a row to attempt to schedule an interview and was told by a secretary that she would “pass on the message.” But on April 16, a call to Higgins’ office was met with this response: the secretary said Karolys and Higgins were “too busy” and “wouldn’t have time” to answer our questions.
In addition to this week’s ZBA meeting, the Saugerties Democratic Committee will hold a forum on Wednesday, April 24 at 6:30 p.m. at the Frank Greco Senior Center exploring solutions for the immediate dumping situation, as well as a proposed landfill in Catskill, executive orders from the White House facilitating the establishment of oil and gas pipelines and other fossil fuel projects eyed for the region.