Residents downhill from illegal dumping on Church Road have once again called for action, enlisting the help of the Woodstock Environmental Commission.
“A lot of the forward movement has been, for lack of a better word, just stopped by (Supervisor) Bill (McKenna), said WEC member Erin Moran at the October 18 Town Board meeting.
“It’s been two years and we’ve been told we’re going to get a plan and there’s a plan along the way. The plans that are submitted do not rise to the level of what has been asked for by the Building Department.”
Frank and Pam Eighmey at 56 Reynolds Lane have borne the brunt of illegally dumped construction debris and now cannot drink water from their well due to contamination.
Vincent Conigliaro, the owner of 10 Church Road, ordered fill from legally troubled hauler Joseph Karolys for a project. He has since claimed his wife, Gina, colluded with Karolys to have the contaminated fill dumped on the property.
Karolys and Gina Conigliaro were found guilty of one count each of illegal dumping.
Their meager fine of $1500 each was a far cry from the $300,000 they each faced, but McKenna said at the time, the court action was needed to begin cleanup and force action on the property owner.
Vincent Conigliaro escaped fines after placing blame on his wife.
Things went from bad to worse for the Eighmeys when an inadequately constructed berm gave way in a summer 2020 rainstorm, sending debris tumbling into the Eighmeys back yard and walkway.
“Their water is no longer safe to drink, guys. That’s where we are. This water is going to go down into the Sawkill,” Moran said, as the Eighmeys observed from the back of the room. They had expected to confront McKenna, but he had to leave because of a family emergency.
“Plans that are being put before you are that Vince is going to hire someone to sift through the dirt and take out the bad stuff. You can’t see arsenic, asbestos, heavy metals. You can’t see that with your eye, number one. Number two, if you’re going to actually do a ridiculously, insultingly poor job like that, then at least have a qualified person, an environmental specialist, not anyone on this board, not Bill (McKenna) who has taken soil samples himself to the DEC that came back surprisingly clean.”
“I don’t know what they expect the town can do. I can’t put a gun to Vince’s head and demand he start digging up the soil,” McKenna said of Moran’s comments. “Because we won a lawsuit, we have the ability to turn around and force a cleanup and bill it back to him…But we can’t just go in there with a bulldozer and start cleaning up. We have to go and get a court order to get permission to go in there.”
Environmental Consultant John Conrad, who was retained by the Eighmeys, reminded the Town Board a resolution passed two years ago called for periodic testing of the Eighmeys’ well and the fill material.
“I think it’s obvious why that’s important to do. We need to understand whether their well has been impacted at the earliest possible time and that testing program was supposed to do that,” Conrad said. “That resolution was to test the fill material itself in the dump. And for similar reasons, I think it’s obvious why you would want to do that. You want to characterize what’s in there, what contaminants are present, what might be getting in the groundwater, as well. And so there’s been some sort of a disconnect, because that work has not been done in these two years,” he said. “The cleanup itself really does need to go forward. We need to end the delays, but it’s not going to go forward without a plan. And let me suggest to the board, and I’ve written to you about this in the in the last few weeks, that if you focus on that first step, and that is coming up with a plan, I think that would be a really strong step forward.”
In June, Conigliaro’s contractor, David Kolts, had proposed a plan to remove all the material and dispose of it in a landfill certified to deal with the waste, but the $500,000 cost was deemed too high.
Town engineer Dennis Larios met recently with Conigliaro and Kolts, said McKenna, when asked about the progress.
“Right now, what they’re proposing is that they would remove that hill facing the Eighmeys and that they would sift through and they would get rid of any construction debris,” McKenna said. “And then on other parts of the property, they would grade out what fill was left, and before they start moving fill, they would do testing of the soil.”
McKenna believes in the very near future, Kolts will apply for a fill and grade permit and install silt fencing to protect the area, then begin testing.
“That will probably be all that we see happen this winter. Because once we get into bad weather, it’ll be a mess in there, there’ll be a bigger mess than what we have now,” McKenna said.
McKenna: Everyone keeps blaming the supervisor
If Conigliaro’s cleanup efforts aren’t satisfactory, the town can hire a contractor to do the work and add the cost to the taxes. If Conigliaro defaults on the taxes, the county will make the town whole and recoup the amount in a foreclosure sale.
“Everybody keeps blaming the supervisor for dragging his feet. I’m the one that got it to court. I’m the one that got the convictions. I’m the one that set up the capital (fund) and I’m the one that went looking for the funding. And I’ve had to fight every step of the way for it. So you know, my heart bleeds for the Eighmeys. They’re living with a mess.”
The Town Board agreed to set up a capital fund for the cleanup but did not agree to fund it with $200,000 from surplus.
“I suggested, I told (the Eighmeys), I begged them, they should have started a civil suit two years ago, because quite frankly, they have a much stronger basis for suit than we do.”