About 80 people showed up at the Mescal Hornbeck community center in Woodstock November 28 united in a vociferous demand for the removal of contaminated fill from 10 Church Road in Shady. They booed Woodstock town supervisor Bill McKenna as he left the room after a heated session. Some 15 people each spoke for two minutes or less. The town board listened and adjourned the session.
Some in the crowd yelled out “Coward!” as McKenna walked out. People lined up the length of the community center, many shouting, to take turns giving the supervisor and town board a tongue-lashing.
Earlier the same day, the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) regional office in New Paltz released a letter denying the site required state remedial action. “DEC inspected the site and the neighboring property on multiple occasions and has not observed evidence of a violation of the Environmental Conservation Law or the department’s regulations,” wrote regional director Kelly Tutrurro in part. “Accordingly, the site is not considered an unlawful solid-waste disposal site within our jurisdiction. As a result, DEC does not have regulatory authority to require any remedial action at this site.”
Is this water harming me?
“We on Reynolds Lane are all buying water for home use now for fear of consuming deleterious chemicals from our well water. As long as the pollutants remain atop our properties, that threat remains and we cannot consume our water especially out of fear for our children or anyone visiting our homes,” said James Manual at the session. “To visitors to our homes, real-estate agents and town agents, we are compelled to warn you do not drink or use our water from the tap that might be contaminated with chemicals. Even if we tested yesterday for Chemical X in our water, today it might be over the federal limit.”
New homeowner Keri Lederman said she was now faced with the challenges posed by a questionable water supply. “As the newest resident on Reynolds Lane, having moved in July 2022, I find myself grappling with a situation that has turned my dream of homeownership into a daily battle against uncertainty,” she said. “The water that flows through my faucets, the very source of life, is now a source of concern, casting a shadow over my daily routines. Instead of enjoying the simple pleasure of a hot shower or clean meal, I’m haunted by the nagging question, ‘Is this water harming me?”
Four years after the problem surfaced, the town board seemed indifferent to the plight of the residents, she said. “The ongoing water contamination crisis is a stain on our community, a stark reminder of the fragility of our well-being and as a responsibility to be fair towards one another. It is a story of neglect, of inaction and of a community’s right to clean, safe water being repeatedly trampled upon.”
“Where are we meant to be safe if not at home?” asked a woman who lived on Reynolds Lane but had a reason not to want her name used. She said it wasn’t until after they purchased their home on Reynolds Lane in the summer of 2020 that they became aware of sharing a property line with a dump site at 10 Church Road. “Although we were concerned as newcomers unaware of local politics, we naively trusted you, our town officials, who said complete removal was the solution being pursued. At some point things changed, and the assurances we’ve been given never came to fruition,” she continued. “We will continue to organize, speak and fight on behalf of the Eighmeys, our down-gradient neighbors, and all fellow Woodstock residents … all of you in here. We will fight for you just so I can feel safe at home. Clean water is a human right and not up for discussion.”
Assurances and promises
Lawrence Edelmen would not have purchased his home had he known about the contamination. “Pertinent information was kept from us in 2021. We’ve heard nothing from our elected officials in the way of a solution or even an excuse as to why the laws against dumping contaminated materials aren’t being exercised,” Edelman said in a statement read by neighbor David Schulze. “Shady needs clean water, and its residents ask for better communication and cooperation from town leadership.”
Julie Szabo said she heard dump trucks and excavators arrive at 10 Church Road in the height of the Covid lockdown in 2020. She and others called police and the supervisor and were assured enforcement and complete removal of the contaminated fill.
“And then we waited,” said Szabo. “We waited for the town to take the offending parties to court. We waited for the $1500 to be fined per truckload to finance the cleanup. That never happened. We waited for the town to test our wells. We waited for the town to carry out its promise to remove the fill and clean up the site. Instead, three years later, in the spring of 2023, “We were woken up once again to the sound of excavators that no one had forewarned us about. We watched and we waited as Plan E removed a few bigger pieces of debris and removed the remaining contaminated fill to a berm on the other side of the property, expanding the number of down-gradient homes that are at risk for contamination.”
A little bit of song relieved the tension.
“Take it away. Take it all away. Remove it from the land. How’d you let this toxic dump get so far out of hand?” Luke Hunsberger sang, with many in the crowd singing along. “Restore it to the way it was before. We don’t wanna hear excuses any more. Danger is knocking on our door.”
Reynolds Lane residents Frank and Pam Eighmey have sued the town and 10 Church Road property owner Vince Conigliaro and his wife Gina twice. The first lawsuit, filed in June, seeks to get a permit for so-called remediation Plan E invalidated. The latest, filed November 22, seeks damages.
Plan E, submitted by Conigliaro and accepted by the town, involved removing larger debris and moving the remainder of the fill to a portion of the property away from neighbors. In late 2019 and early 2020, construction debris processor and contractor Joseph Karolys brought an estimated 200 truckloads of fill containing construction debris to 10 Church Road in violation of the town’s solid-waste law.
The DEC letter the same day preemptively denied many of the allegations later made at the Woodstock meeting. In a response to an October 14 letter from Hydroquest consultants to the Eighmeys Paul Rubin and Katherine Beinkafner of Mid-Hudson Geosciences and another letter from Rubin dated October 31, regional director Turturro wrote that the DEC was aware of claims that C&D residues remain at the site. The state agency claims to have conducted “a complete review of all available information, including the data provided in the October 14 communication [from Rubin and Beinkafner].”
No residues observed
“DEC does not agree with this claim,” she wrote. “Where there is a site consisting of recognizable, uncontaminated concrete or concrete products, asphalt pavement, brick, glass, rock, and/or general fill, removing the concrete, asphalt, brick, and glass would not make the remaining rock and general fill unrecognizable or otherwise noncompliant with DEC’s regulations. DEC staff were looking for, among other things, residues from C&D processing activities when they inspected the site and the neighboring property. None were observed.”
DEC said it had reviewed both old and new claims. “DEC has reviewed all sampling results and summaries provided to DEC. Based upon DEC’s review of the data presented to date, as well as staff observations at the site and the neighboring property, DEC does not have any evidence that hazardous waste is present at the site, or that any pollutant is present at a level considered hazardous under our regulations.”
Not all solid waste was hazardous, the DEC letter pointed out.
DEC claimed the involvement of Karolys, who is currently under charge not only with DEC violations but with the murder of a colleague, caused the state agency to review “what it knew of the site or any of the sites under the ownership or control of Joseph Karolys.” it wrote. “DEC does not agree with the remaining assertions or representations in your letter as to what is or was known by DEC about the site or any of the sites under the ownership or control of Joseph Karolys.”.
Adjourned or not?
After giving everyone in the room a chance to speak for two minutes each, McKenna had moved to adjourn the meeting. The vote was 2-2, with council members Bennet Ratcliff and Maria-Elena Conte voting against and council member Laura Ricci voting in favor. Council member Reggie Earls was absent. Ratcliff insisted the meeting was not adjourned, but McKenna said adjournment only required two votes in favor of it .
Normally, a motion takes a majority to carry, but an adjournment does not. Nothing in the Open Meetings Law covers adjournment of meetings, according to Committee on Open Government assistant director Kristin O’Neill, who referred to state municipal law Section 63, which allows less than a quorum to adjourn. O’Neill confirmed that the meeting would have been considered automatically adjourned as soon as less than a quorum, or majority of the board, was present.
Text of the DEC letter
Paul A. Rubin
414 .E Kerley Corners Road
Tivoli, New York 12583
Via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Katherine Beinkafner, Ph.D. Mid-Hudson Geosciences
P.O. Box 32
Clintondale, New York 12515
Via email: email@example.com
Re: 10 Church Road, Shady, New York
Dear Paul A. Rubin and Katherine Beinkafner, Ph.D.,
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has reviewed your letter dated October 14, 2023, regarding 10 Church Road in Shady, Town of Woodstock (the Site). DEC also reviewed the letter from Mid-Hudson Geosciences dated October 31, 2023. We continue to receive inquiries regarding this Site, and I have included a summary of DEC’s actions and conclusions below.
DEC routinely investigates reports of illegal disposal of construction and demolition (C&D) debris by inspecting sites to evaluate whether they meet the requirements of state law and regulations. DEC’s regulations applicable to this Site provided that recognizable, uncontaminated concrete or concrete products, asphalt pavement, brick, glass, rock, and general fill from construction and demolition activities may be accepted for disposal without a permit. DEC staff have expertise in identifying C&D debris that is not recognizable or uncontaminated, such as fines and residues from C&D processing activities.
DEC was first advised of activities at the Site in early 2020. DEC inspected the Site and the neighboring property on multiple occasions and has not observed evidence of a violation of the Environmental Conservation Law or the Department’s regulations. Accordingly, the Site is not considered an unlawful solid waste disposal site within our jurisdiction. As a result, DEC does not have regulatory authority to require any remedial action at this site.
Municipalities may have local laws regarding solid waste that are more stringent than state law. It is DEC’s understanding that C&D debris was removed from the Site pursuant to an agreement with the Town of Woodstock. DEC is aware of claims that C&D residues remain at the Site. DEC does not agree with this claim. Where there is a site consisting of recognizable, uncontaminated concrete or concrete products, asphalt pavement, brick, glass, rock, and/or general fill, removing the concrete, asphalt, brick, and glass would not make the remaining rock and general fill unrecognizable or otherwise noncompliant with DEC’s regulations. DEC staff were looking for, among other things, residues from C&D processing activities when they inspected the Site and the neighboring property. None were observed.
Due to the level of community interest in this matter, DEC has reviewed all sampling results and summaries provided to DEC. Based upon DEC’s review of the data presented to date, as well as staff observations at the Site and the neighboring property, DEC does not have any evidence that hazardous waste is present at the Site or that any pollutant is present at a level considered hazardous under our regulations.
DEC has previously explained that staff reviewed the summary of the sampling results prepared by PVE, LLC, which indicated that for two of the four samples there were a total of eight data points with minor exceedances over the unrestricted Soil Cleanup Objectives [6 NYCRR part 375] for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). PAHs are often found at low levels in asphalt pavement, which may lawfully be used as fill pursuant to DEC’s regulations.
In addition, there have been inaccurate assumptions made about the material at the Site due to its association with Joseph Karolys (Karolys). As you are aware, Karolys violated the terms of the registration issued for his solid waste management facility on Route 212 in the Town of Saugerties by accepting solid waste not authorized to be received at his facility. Karolys also disposed of solid waste at two other properties under his ownership and control in a manner that does not meet the requirements of DEC’s regulations. The violations cited at the Karolys properties are the subject of ongoing litigation, and the State is seeking an order requiring the removal of al solid waste from the properties. DEC does not have any evidence that hazardous waste is present at the Karolys properties or that any pollutant is present at a level considered hazardous under our regulations. Not all solid waste is considered hazardous (see 6 NYCRR Part 370 et seq.).
DEC’s evaluation of our jurisdiction over the Site is based on a complete review of all available information, including the data provided in your October 14, 2023 letter. Finally, DEC does not agree with the remaining assertions or representations in your letter as to what is or was known by DEC about the Site or any of the sites under the ownership or control of Joseph Karolys.
Kelly R. Turturro