The state Department of Environmental Conservation is suing a former Glenville business owner, charging that he won’t allow officials access to his property to clean up contamination.
The lawsuit, filed Feb. 20 in state Supreme Court in Albany County, alleges that Shaun Cole blocked DEC officials from his property at 107 Freemans Bridge Road. The site is the source of contamination that dates back to when the property was owned by Kenco Chemical, which supplied chemicals such as solvents to dry cleaners and other businesses, according to the DEC. Cole purchased the property in 1999.
Testing found elevated quantities of three chemicals used in industrial solvents: tetrachloroethene, trichloroethene and dichloroethene, which can cause cancer if ingested. A contamination plume emanating from the site affected the water supply for the nearby Sunnyside Gardens housing development until it was cleaned up.
The contamination was first discovered in late 2006. According to the lawsuit, Cole had refused access to the site until signing an agreement with DEC in September 2008. The state took soil samples and installed groundwater monitoring wells.
On Nov. 3, 2009, Cole yelled at DEC staff and told them to move their vehicle off the property and get rid of all equipment “or he would obtain his AK-47 and start ‘putting holes in things,’ ” according to the lawsuit.
Cole revoked access to the property. DEC set the issue aside and let the federal Environmental Protection Agency take over in 2010. EPA cleaned up and monitored the site and other properties at 99 and 101 Freemans Bridge Road that Cole owns.
The federal government ended its involvement in 2012 because it determined a long-term monitoring plan was needed and its involvement in this type of program is limited by statute to 12 months. DEC took over from there, but Cole has refused to allow DEC officials on the property to continue remediation.
The lawsuit seeks access to the site and monetary fines.
“The delay of remediation threatens public health and the environment by the contamination at the site and by its flowing off-site, which in turn contaminates the surface water, groundwater, residential drinking water supplies and the air, as the contaminants emit hazardous vapors,” according to the lawsuit.
Cole said Wednesday that state officials abused their privilege of being on the property by storing a decontamination unit and barrels there and scaring away potential tenants by telling them they cannot occupy the business. Cole owned an industrial supply company but had to shut it down because of this issue.
“I’m getting charged with a full tax rate on a brownfield that I can’t rent out to a customer or tenant,” he said.
Two of his other properties at 99 and 101 Freemans Bridge Road went into foreclosure and were purchased at auction.
“This is a very large, expensive mess, and I don’t have any money to fight anymore,” he said.
He wanted federal officials to take over this process from DEC.
“The EPA had plenty of federal funds to spend on this project. DEC didn’t have any money. They refused to let EPA take this site over,” he said.