For Immediate Release - January 31, 2014

Owner of Danvers Property to Pay $387,500 for Failing to Address Hazardous Waste Contamination

BOSTON – The owner of a highly contaminated property along the Crane River in Danvers has agreed to pay $387,500 over allegations that he failed to clean up soils and sediments at the site, which contain high levels of arsenic and dioxin, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today.

The consent judgment, entered Thursday by Judge Merita Hopkins in Suffolk Superior Court, also requires owner Nicholas J. Decoulos to continue to maintain fencing and warning signs around the most contaminated areas of the property to notify the public of the potential hazards, as previously ordered by the court through a preliminary injunction. 

“Strict compliance with the state’s hazardous waste laws is essential to protecting the public and environment,” AG Coakley said. “Property owners cannot shift the costs of dealing with contamination at their properties on to taxpayers.”

“The failure to appropriately clean up this contaminated site resulted in the Commonwealth taking steps to secure this property, protect nearby residents and the public and ultimately move towards cleaning up the site,” said Kenneth Kimmell, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). “This judgment in court demonstrates again that violators cannot ignore environmental contamination.”  

The property was formerly the site of the Creese and Cook Tannery located along the Crane River in Danvers, where the company operated a leather tanning and finishing operation. Solid wastes from the manufacturing process were disposed of in two onsite landfills. According to the complaint, Decoulos violated state hazardous waste law by refusing to secure the most dangerous sections of the property, which were being accessed by trespassers. The complaint also alleges that Decoulos had violated the state’s clean air laws by demolishing a building at the property without first removing asbestos. 

MassDEP previously determined that, without controls to prevent access to the property, the contaminated surface soils in the former landfills and other areas of the property, along with contaminated sediment in the Crane River located adjacent to the site, posed an imminent hazard to public health, welfare, and safety, and the environment.

In March 2011, Decoulos was found liable in court for the violations alleged in the complaint. The judgment orders Decoulos to pay $187,500 in civil penalties and more than $200,000 to reimburse the Commonwealth for contractor expenses and other costs incurred by MassDEP in addressing the contamination when Decoulos failed to take action.

The consent judgment also requires Decoulos to regularly inspect the property and report to MassDEP any trespasser use of the property. 

Under the terms of the judgment, the fencing, signage, and monitoring requirements will remain in place until the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) takes jurisdiction of the property.  In May 2013, the EPA listed the property on the National Priorities List of Superfund sites, along with a nearby property that had also been used for tannery operations by the prior owner.     

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, James Jordan and Tom Angus.

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