Former Junkyard Operator Found Guilty, Sentenced for Not Reporting Release of Hazardous Materials
WORCESTER — The former owner of a large parcel of land in Leominster and Sterling was found guilty and sentenced for failing to report the presence of environmental contamination on his property to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), Attorney General Martha Coakley and MassDEP announced today.
After a three-day jury trial, Paul Lukashuk, age 70, of Paragould, Ark., was found guilty on Wednesday by a Worcester Superior Court jury on the charges of Failing to Notify MassDEP of the Release of Hazardous Materials (1 count) and for Conveying Land on Which Hazardous Waste was Disposed Without Notice of Disposal Being Recorded in the Registry of Deeds (1 count).
After the guilty verdict was returned, Judge Richard T. Tucker sentenced Lukashuk to 18 months in the House of Correction, suspended for a probationary period of five years. Judge Tucker also imposed the condition that Lukashuk be prohibited from handling or managing solid waste or hazardous materials.
“This defendant violated environmental law by not notifying the appropriate authorities about hazardous waste discovered on his property,” said AG Coakley. “This result holds him responsible for intentionally skirting laws intended to protect the public and the environment.”
“Owners of properties that contain hazardous materials must be transparent about the contaminants on their sites or they put unknowing buyers and nearby residents at potential risk of harm,” said MassDEP Commissioner David W. Cash. “This case sends clear message that property owners must do the right thing to fully protect the public health or they will pay a heavy price.”
According to authorities Lukashuk’s former 31-acre property located along Route 12 at 1537 Central St. in Leominster and that stretched into Sterling, was the site of a scrap yard and recycling facility for decades. In 2000, a potential purchaser of the property retained an environmental engineering firm to assess the environmental condition of the property. The engineering firm determined that approximately four acres of the parcel on the Leominster portion of the property was contaminated with PCBs, cadmium and lead. The potential purchaser withdrew from the purchase, citing concerns about the contamination and other permitting issues.
At the time, Lukashuk was notified of the report and the contamination on his property, but failed to report it to MassDEP, as required by the Massachusetts Oil and Hazardous Material Release and Prevention Act. When Lukashuk sold the property to another purchaser in 2005, he did not record a notice that hazardous waste was disposed of on the property at the Registry of Deeds, as required under the state’s Hazardous Waste Management Act.
This result stems from an investigation by the Massachusetts Environmental Strike Force, an interagency unit which is overseen by AG Coakley, Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rick Sullivan, and MassDEP Commissioner David W. Cash. The Strike Force comprises prosecutors from the Attorney General’s Office, Environmental Police Officers assigned to the Attorney General’s Office, and investigators and engineers from the MassDEP who investigate and prosecute crimes that harm or threaten the state’s water, air, or land and that pose a significant threat to human health.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Daniel Licata of Attorney General Coakley’s Environmental Crimes Strike Force with assistance from Volunteer Assistant Attorney General Philip Messier, the Massachusetts Environmental Police and MaryJude Pigsley, Rhonda Russian, Nick Child and Jennifer Macionus from MassDEP’s Central Regional Office in Worcester.
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