- Office of Attorney General Maura Healey
- Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection
Media Contact for Russell Landowners and Three Companies Settle Allegations of Illegal Destruction of Wetlands and Disposal of Solid Waste
Boston — The owners of a 100-acre parcel in Russell and three companies will pay up to $55,000 in penalties and restore acres of wetlands and a half-mile of stream bed to settle allegations that they illegally altered and destroyed those areas and illegally dumped solid waste onto the property, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today.
The consent judgments, entered today in Suffolk Superior Court, settle a lawsuit filed by the AG’s Office, alleging Karen and Russell Mehl violated the state’s Wetlands Protection Act and Solid Waste Act. According to the AG’s complaint, the Mehls allegedly altered or destroyed more than five acres of wetland, a half-mile of stream beds, and more than four acres of associated buffer zone by clearing and filling those areas with solid waste, including more than 14,000 cubic yards of fill made with aluminum oxide, as well as construction and demolition debris, leaf and yard waste, and other solid waste. The consent judgements require the Mehls and their landscaping company, Legend Lawn Care, to restore damaged wetlands and stream banks and to remove and properly dispose of the debris and solid waste from the property.
“Wetlands are vital natural resources for our residents that protect our drinking water supplies and provide flood control and habitats for our wildlife,” AG Healey said. “They are not dumping grounds. Our office will take action against those who violate the state laws that protect these valuable resources and other laws protecting the public health and the environment.”
“We are pleased to work with the Attorney General’s office to support the Russell Conservation Commission and its request for assistance with the wetlands violations at the site,” said Commissioner Martin Suuberg of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). “This settlement also highlights and reinforces the need for waste generators and haulers to ensure the proper management and disposal of their waste materials.”
According to the AG’s complaint, beginning in 2001, the Mehls began to clear forested wetlands and stream banks on their residentially-zoned property and fill them with concrete rubble, patio block, scrap metal, and other construction and demolition debris, as well as household waste and yard waste from Legend Lawn Care.
The AG’s Office also alleges that, beginning in 2003, the Mehls filled wetlands and stream banks with fill material, provided by Truck Crane Service, Inc., an excavation and trucking company in Westfield, made from sand and woodchips mixed with aluminum oxide generated by Micro Abrasives Corporation, an abrasives manufacturing company, also of Westfield.
The wetlands and streams filled or altered on the property feed into Potash Brook and the Westfield River. Potash Brook and the Westfield River are state-designated Coldwater Fish Resources and are stocked with trout for the public to catch.
Under the terms of today’s settlement, the defendants will pay a total of up to $55,000 in penalties to the state. The Mehls and Legend Lawn Care will restore approximately five acres of wetlands, 3,466 feet of stream bed, and two acres of associated buffer zone to their prior condition. The Mehls will also place the restored areas and additional land, totaling 34 acres, under a conservation restriction, requiring it to remain in its natural state and open to the public in order to offset damage to and permanent loss of the wetlands on the property. Truck Crane Service and Micro Abrasives Corporation will assist with the clean-up and contribute $25,000 to pay for professional oversight of the clean-up. Micro Abrasives will also pay a $10,000 penalty, and Truck Crane Service will pay a $45,000 penalty, reduced to $25,000 with the successful completion of its role in the clean-up.
The Mehls and Legend will also remove illegal solid waste from the property, under the direction of MassDEP.
This case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Peter C. Mulcahy, with the assistance of MassDEP Western Region personnel Christine LeBel, Chief Regional Counsel; David Cameron, Wetlands Section Chief, and Tim McKenna, Environmental Analyst, Wetlands Section, Bureau of Water Resources; Brian Harrington, Deputy Regional Director, Bureau of Water Resources; and Dan Hall, Section Chief, and Charles Clines, Environmental Engineer, Solid Waste Section, Bureau of Air & Waste; Tim Cahill, Senior Financial Analysis Manager, MassDEP; and Colleen Frost, Financial Investigator, of the Investigations Division of AG Healey’s Public Protection and Advocacy Bureau.