Attorney General Letitia James today filed a lawsuit against Joseph and Rachel Karolys for persistent and flagrant violations of New York solid waste and water pollutions laws at three separate dump sites in the Town of Saugerties.
“New York’s environmental laws are in place for a reason: to protect public health and our natural resources,” James said. “Mr. Karolys not only didn’t follow our laws, he repeatedly and flagrantly flouted them — ignoring the harms that his illegal conduct posed to the Town of Saugerties and Ulster County. This lawsuit sends a clear message that my office will not tolerate violations of New York’s public health and environmental laws.”
The suit charges that Joseph Karolys has repeatedly accepted and disposed of construction and demolition (C&D) debris at each of the sites, and operated the waste dumps without required state water pollution control permits and in violation of solid waste requirements. These and other violations are ongoing and have continued unabated despite prolonged efforts by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to resolve them.
“DEC is aggressively taking action to protect our communities by holding polluters accountable,” said New York State DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. “Illegal dumping poses a serious threat to the environment and will not be tolerated in New York state.”
According to a press release from the attorney general, in July 2016, Karolys indicated he wished to operate a solid waste management facility accepting and storing up to 1,250 cubic yards of uncontaminated soil, rock, concrete, brick, and block asphalt from Ulster and Dutchess counties. Based on his representations, the DEC issued Karolys a registration authorizing that activity.
Follow-up inspections by the DEC identified violations of the facility’s registration, including the presence of unauthorized waste, lack of recordkeeping of wastes brought to the site, and failure to implement required measures to prevent water pollution. Analysis of samples taken from the site indicated the presence of lead, mercury, and several other chemicals. The DEC also determined that the amount of waste on-site exceeded the 1,250 cubic yard limit and — in violation of the registration’s restriction that only wastes from Ulster country could be accepted by the facility — wastes that originated in the New York City metropolitan area were being dumped at the site.
Further, according to attorney general, when the DEC sought compliance at this site, rather than comply, the Karolys created two additional dump sites in Saugerties, for which he never sought authorization from the DEC to operate. At one of these sites, DEC staff found approximately 40,000 cubic yards of solid waste, including rock, asphalt, coal, ash, slag, brick, concrete, and glass. Analysis of samples from the site indicated the presence of lead. At the other, approximately 15,000 cubic yards of solid waste, including rock, concrete, coal, ash, slag, brick, plaster, and glass were found and an analysis of samples indicated the presence of lead, mercury, DDT, other pesticides, and several additional chemicals.
Despite repeated efforts by the DEC to bring the sites into compliance, to date, unauthorized solid waste remains at the three sites, requisite erosion and sediment control measures have not been implemented, and required state water pollution control permits have not been obtained for any of the sites.
The lawsuit seeks civil penalties for violations of multiple provisions of state solid waste laws at the three sites, with maximum statutory penalties for each violation ranging from $7,500 to $22,500 and additional penalties ranging from $1,500 to $22,500 for each day each that violation has continued. The suit also seeks civil penalties of up to $37,500 per day for each violation for operating each of the three dump sites without the required state water pollution control permit. Finally, the suit asks the court to revoke Karolys’ solid waste management facility registration and order Joseph and Rachel Karolys to remove — and lawfully dispose of — all waste from the three sites.
All three Karolys dumps are on properties adjacent to State Route 212, between the Village of Saugerties and the town center of Woodstock, and in a largely residential area. These sites are located at the foot of the Catskill Mountains and southeast of Overlook Mountain, which is one of the most visited spots in the Catskill Forest Preserve, and is just miles west of Esopus Creek and the Hudson River and north of the Ashokan Reservoir.
Local officials respond
The following quotes from local officials were furnished by the state AG’s office.
“I applaud Attorney General James’ commitment to the health and safety of New Yorkers through her actions against illegal waste dumpers like Joseph Karolys,” said Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan. “The reckless actions of Mr. Karolys put the residents of Saugerties in danger and has put the environment at risk. Ulster County will not now or ever tolerate dumping and those who wish to pollute our County. I will continue to work with the Attorney General’s office, the Town of Saugerties, and Sheriff Figueroa to ensure that illegal waste dumpers are held accountable.”
“The Town of Saugerties is very grateful to the Attorney General’s office for their attention to this matter,” said Saugerties Town Supervisor Fred Costello Jr. “Our residents have needlessly suffered by the selfish actions of Mr. Karolys. We believe his activity has threatened the environment, our quality of life and the well-being of his neighbors. We look forward, on behalf of our residents, to the resolution of the state’s civil action as well as legal action being pursued by the Town of Saugerties.”
“I am thankful to the Attorney General’s office for enforcing the law and protecting both the environment and the community welfare of Saugerties by taking action against this hazardous dumping,” said Assemblyman Chris Tague. “The natural beauty of upstate New York is incomparable to anywhere else in the world, and it deserves to be protected and preserved.”
“Illegal dumping harms communities, water quality, and quality of life, and Catskill Mountainkeeper is thankful that Attorney General James and the Department of Environmental Conservation are throwing the book at Joseph Karolys,” said Ramsay Adams, executive director of Catskill Mountainkeeper. “Joseph Karolys has been dumping on the Saugerties community with impunity, and we hope that today’s action finally stops the operation and begins the process to remove the contaminated waste and remediate the site.”
Contributing individuals and agencies
Assisting in the investigation in this matter were investigators Mark Rudd, Clint DuMoulin, and Edward Conlan, Supervising Investigator Harry Czosnykowski, and Deputy Chief Investigator Jonathan Wood, under the supervision of First Deputy Chief John Reidy. The Investigation Division is led by Chief Oliver Pu-Folkes.
DEC investigators and staff also contributed to this investigation. Attorney General James thanks the DEC for its assistance.
This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorneys Marie Chery-Sekhobo and Brendan McGrath, under the supervision of Affirmative Litigation Section Chief Morgan Costello, Environmental Protection Deputy Bureau Chief Lisa Burianek, and Bureau Chief Lemuel M. Srolovic. The Environmental Protection Bureau is part of the Division of Social Justice, led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Meghan Faux. The Division of Social Justice and the Investigation Division are all under the oversight of First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.