For Immediate Release - February 24, 2010

Court Orders Lexington Couple to Restore Wetlands and to Pay a $100,000 Penalty

BOSTON - Attorney General Martha Coakley's Office obtained a judgment in Suffolk Superior Court ordering a Lexington couple, John and Diane Sellars, to restore wetlands they destroyed and to pay $100,000 in penalties. The judgment also requires the Sellars to escrow $90,000 toward performance of the restoration. This decision comes after a June 24, 2009 ruling that determined the Sellars were liable under the Wetlands Protection Act for the destruction of wetlands at 430 Concord Ave., Lexington, and on adjacent public conservation land, also in Lexington, since at least the early 1990s, as well as for violations of the Solid Waste Management Act. The Attorney General's Office filed the original complaint in the case on May 25, 2007.

"Wetlands are a vital environmental resource and we take seriously the Commonwealth's responsibility to safeguard them for the public interest," said Attorney General Coakley. "We are pleased the ruling requires the defendants to repair the harm caused by the destruction of the wetlands on the Sellars' property. We hope the court's decision sends a message to the public that those who violate wetlands laws will be held accountable."

"Wetlands are an essential natural resource that filter pollutants and provide flood control and species habitat. To unilaterally destroy these resource areas, and compound that damage by refusing to acknowledge that loss is unacceptable," said MassDEP Commissioner Laurie Burt.

According to the court's decision, John and Diane Sellars altered, graded, and filled wetlands with concrete rubble, trees, and other material despite repeated orders from the Lexington Conservation Commission and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) to restore the wetlands. The Sellars have also been receiving deliveries of parking lot sweepings, construction rubble, and other materials at their Lexington property for use as fill in their loam-making business without authorization under the Solid Waste Management Act.

In its decision, issued late last week, the court stated fashioning a remedy which restores the wetlands was its most important consideration and priority.

The Lexington Conservation Commission referred this matter to MassDEP in September 2006. The Attorney General's Office began its investigation shortly after.

The Wetlands Protection Act is designed to prevent damage to the Commonwealth's wetlands, which provide numerous benefits including flood control, storm damage prevention, pollution prevention, shellfish and fisheries protection, and wildlife habitat protection.

This matter was handled by Assistant Attorneys General Louis Dundin and Betsy Harper of Attorney General Coakley's Environmental Protection Division with assistance from Marc LaPlante, Elizabeth Sabounjian, and Heidi Zisch, of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.