For Immediate Release - December 22, 2011

Osterville Man Sued by AG’s Office for Willfully Failing to Cleanup Contaminated Property

BOSTON — An Osterville man who failed to complete the assessment and cleanup of a contaminated property in Osterville, in violation of state environmental laws, is being sued along with his two businesses, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today. 

The Attorney General’s lawsuit is asking the court to require Frank M. Ward and his businesses, Seaview Associates LLC and Dunhill Place Associates LLC, to pay a civil penalty of up to $50,000 per day, per violation of the Massachusetts Oil and Hazardous Material Release Prevention and Response Act and the Massachusetts Contingency Plan.

“The purchase and redevelopment of contaminated properties promotes economic growth and revitalizes communities,” said AG Coakley.  “But developers and property owners must comply with Massachusetts laws to ensure that those properties present no significant risk to the public, neighboring property owners, and the environment.”

AG Coakley’s lawsuit alleges that Ward helped his son and his son’s business partner purchase the already contaminated property in 1998 and 1999.  Following the redevelopment of the property into a new gasoline station and two commercial buildings in 2000, Ward’s son and his business partner transferred the entire property to Ward’s company, Dunhill Place Associates, in 2004. Ward again transferred the property to Seaview Associates, another one of his businesses, in 2007. 

The complaint alleges that Ward and his businesses had failed to timely complete the required assessment and cleanup actions for approximately six years. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) had issued an order requiring that work be completed by August 2007. He also failed to provide accurate information as to the owner of the property.

“Failure to fulfill your legal obligation to clean up a contaminated site is a serious offense. Submitting inaccurate documents to a government agency  brings that offense to an even more serious level,” said MassDEP Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell. “MassDEP relies on the integrity of these reports to ensure that cleanup is performed in a timely and adequate manner. We will work with the Attorney General’s Office to uncover practices like those alleged in this case.”

Despite having the resources to comply with that order, Ward chose not to do so in violation of the order and state law. In particular, Ward failed to submit what is known as a “Response Action Outcome Statement” by that date.  A Response Action Outcome Statement is the name for the report that demonstrates that the property no longer poses a significant risk to public health, safety, and the environment. Additionally, Ward violated Massachusetts law by falsely certifying that one of his businesses still owned the property when he had, in fact, transferred it to another one of his businesses, thereby impeding MassDEP’s ability to ensure compliance at the property. 

The case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Seth Schofield of Attorney General Coakley’s Environmental Protection Division, with assistance from Monique Cascarano of Attorney General Coakley’s Civil Investigations Division, as well as Assistant Regional Counsel Rebecca Tobin and Environmental Analyst John Handrahan of MassDEP’s Southeast Regional Office in Lakeville.

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