BALLSTON — The town is optimistic that the derelict former gas station at the corner of Saratoga and Lake Hill roads may finally be cleaned up this year.
The town on Wednesday sued the owner of 814 Saratoga Road, seeking fines, monetary damages, a declaration that the structure is a public safety threat and a demolition order.
A large cleanup was undertaken several years ago at the Magnum Gas Station but more contamination remains and the gas station is not structurally sound, the town states in its lawsuit.
Named as defendants are the current owner, Sevinc and Nuri LLC, and the previous owner, Nuri Ozman.
Ozman hung up when contacted for comment for this story Thursday.
Magnum has become a bit of a landmark, sitting on one of the more prominent intersections in town.
Town Supervisor Eric Connolly on Friday said the site has been a problem for years, and he came to appreciate how much it bothered residents as he campaigned for office in 2019.
“It was pretty much the number one thing on people’s minds as I went door to door,” he said. “As soon as I took office we began to strategize on how to make that corner look very different.”
It was not a quick or easy process, Connolly said. He wouldn’t detail the legal and strategic plan but said it takes all factors into account and should work.
“I don’t want to guarantee it, but things are looking very good,” he said. “With a little bit of good fortune it’ll look very different very soon — this year.”
The Ozbay family operated a string of USA Gas locations across the region in the 1990s and early 2000s. Four members of the family — Mustafa, Zlya, Birol and Yalcin Ozbay — were convicted in 2006 and 2007 on federal charges involving millions of dollars of unpaid taxes.
Ballston tax records show the current owner of the Magnum Gas at 814 Saratoga Road as Sevinc & Nuri LLC, with an address of 1600 Western Ave. in Guilderland, a USA Gas station.
Also in Guilderland, Nuri Ozbay and Mustafa Ozbay are listed as the owners of another long-vacant and deteriorating gas station at 1611 Western Ave.
Nuri Ozbay currently has an active bankruptcy filing in federal court in Albany. Connolly said he didn’t think that would impede progress of the town’s lawsuit against Nuri Ozbay and Sevinc & Nuri LLC.
The lawsuit filed Wednesday in state Supreme Court in Saratoga County states and alleges:
- Nuri Ozbay held title to the site for 14 months in 2015 and 2016 and Sevinc & Nuri LLC have owned it since then.
- Numerous petroleum discharges were discovered during their period of ownership; based on the amount of contaminated soil and groundwater removed from the site, it’s likely a very large amount of oil and other chemicals was discharged.
- From May 2016 to June 2019, they failed in their cleanup obligations under state Navigation Law, which holds them responsible for all costs and damages.
- The defendants apparently started some remediation but never completed it; the site now contains the decrepit service station; two very large underground petroleum storage tanks sitting along Route 50; and a large excavation pit arising from the failed remediation.
- Town Building Inspector and Code Enforcement Officer Jeffrey J. Stickles determined on Nov. 25, 2020, that the site and its structures were a danger.
- Notice requiring removal or repair of the unsafe condition within 30 days was served upon Nuri Ozbay on March 12, 2021, and posted on the site.
- The defendant did not comply, so the town appointed two inspectors May 26; they reported June 29 that the site was unsafe and the structure should be demolished immediately.
- The Town Board directed the town supervisor to seek a Supreme Court ruling that the property is a nuisance and should be repaired or removed.
- The Magnum site is a blight upon the town and is in actively dangerous condition; it endangers the property, health, safety and comfort of the public.
- The state Department of Environmental Conservation found that petroleum was discharged while operated by the defendants; Navigation Law holds any person who discharged petroleum responsible for cleanup and removal costs, and that claims for damages can be brought directly against that person.
A 2016 consultant report prepared for Nuri Ozbay was submitted as an exhibit with the lawsuit. It says:
- The service station/gas station was erected in 1965.
- Retail gas sales were halted in the early 1990s but automotive service continued.
- Groundwater testing in 1994 indicated potential on-site contamination; 5,000 gallons of contaminated groundwater and 160 tons of contaminated soil were removed at that point.
- All business activity halted around 2006.
- More contamination was found in May 2016; about 70 tons of contaminated soil, 2,000 gallons of contaminated water and 200 pounds of hazardous waste were removed from inside the building but excavation was limited by fear of undermining the structural stability of the building; approximately 56,000 gallons of contaminated water and 553 tons of contaminated soil were removed from outside the building.
In its lawsuit, the town seeks a declaratory judgment that the defendants are in violation of town zoning law, allowing the DEC to enter the site to participate in remediation.
The town also seeks damages of at least $1 million, plus expenses; a lien on the property; penalties including a fine of $250 a day for every day the hazardous conditions have existed; declaration of a public nuisance; a demolition order; removal of all debris and equipment; and declaration that the defendants are the responsible parties and liable for cleanup costs and damages.