For Immediate Release - June 12, 2009

AG Files Suit Against Owner Of Contaminated Site in Danvers

BOSTON- Attorney General Martha Coakley's Office filed a complaint in Suffolk Superior Court against the owner of a contaminated site in Danvers. The complaint, filed yesterday afternoon, alleges that Nicholas J. Decoulos violated state hazardous waste law by refusing to clean up the soils and sediments at the site, which contain high levels of arsenic and dioxin. The complaint further alleges that Decoulos has violated the law by failing to secure the most dangerous sections of the site and by failing to post signs warning about the hazards at the property.

"The uncontrolled hazardous waste releases at Mr. Decoulos' property not only present a danger to the environment, but also pose a significant risk to public health," said Attorney General Coakley. "It is the responsibility of any property owner to take the steps necessary to protect the public and to clean up hazardous waste on their property."

"The failure of Mr. Decoulos to take appropriate steps to clean up this contaminated site is irresponsible and his failure to secure his property creates an unacceptable risk to nearby residents and the public," said Laurie Burt, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). "Today's complaint in court was made necessary by Mr. Decoulos' refusal to allow access for MassDEP address this unsafe condition."

The property was formerly the site of the Creese and Cook Tannery and is located along the Crane River in Danvers. According to the complaint, current conditions pose an imminent hazard due to the presence of contaminated surface soils in the former landfills, and in a former lagoon and upland fill pile along with contaminated sediment in the Crane River located directly adjacent to the site.

The imminent hazard areas were identified by contractors hired by the site's owner. Despite reports of individuals accessing this site for recreational and other purposes, the complaint alleges Decoulos has refused to repair fencing and post warning signs around the imminent hazard areas to prevent human exposure to the contamination. Decoulos has also refused to enter into an access agreement with MassDEP to allow its contractors to complete this work, according to an affidavit also filed today,

In 2004, Decoulos directed the demolition of a former tannery building at the property, causing a release of asbestos containing material to the air, in violation of the Massachusetts Clean Air Act, according to the complaint. The asbestos-containing demolition debris from that release remains at the site and has not been remediated, as required by state hazardous waste law.

The complaint seeks a preliminary injunction requiring Decoulos to grant MassDEP access to the site to secure the imminent hazard areas and install the necessary warning signs. It also requests a preliminary injunction requiring Decoulos to comply with the law going forward by repairing and replacing the fencing and warning signs, as necessary, and monitoring and reporting to MassDEP any further trespasser use of the site. A hearing on the preliminary injunction request has been scheduled for June 22 at 2 p.m.

The complaint also seeks a permanent injunction requiring Decoulos to comply with state hazardous waste law by remediating the site, as well as civil penalties for violation of the Commonwealth's environmental laws.

The Attorney General's Office brought this action on behalf of MassDEP. The complaint seeks to enforce alleged violations under the Massachusetts Oil and Hazardous Material Release Prevention and Response Act and the Massachusetts Clean Air Act.

Assistant Attorney General Tracy Triplett from Attorney General Coakley's Environmental Protection Division is handling this case, with assistance from Maureen Vallatini of MassDEP's Office of General Counsel and MassDEP environmental analyst Christopher Pyott.