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United States Announces Settlement of Superfund Suit for Reimbursement of Cleanup Costs at the Stanton Cleaners Area Groundwater Contamination Site in Great Neck, New York

September 27, 2012

Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Judith A. Enck, Regional Administrator, United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 2, today announced the settlement of a civil environmental lawsuit in which the United States sought the reimbursement of the costs of EPA’s cleanup at the Stanton Cleaners Area Groundwater Contamination Site (the Site) in Great Neck, New York.

The lawsuit was brought against the Estate of Lillian Wiesner (Wiesner Estate), John P. Maffei (Maffei), and the property at 110 Cutter Mill Road, Great Neck, New York, where hazardous substances were disposed of by former dry cleaning operations. The complaint alleged that the Wiesner Estate was liable for EPA’s response costs under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), commonly known as the Superfund law, as a current and past owner at the time of disposal of hazardous substances. The complaint further alleged that Maffei was liable based on his status as a de facto current and past owner of the property at the time of disposal of hazardous substances at the Site. Maffei, individually and as owner of Executeam Corporation, held long-term leases to the property, and he subleased the property to Stanton Cleaners, Inc., to operate a dry cleaning business there. Past disposal practices of the dry cleaning operations at the Site caused the indoor air, soil, and groundwater at and near the property to become contaminated with perchloroethylene (commonly known as perc or PCE). Chronic exposure to PCE could cause adverse health effects to exposed individuals. EPA installed soil vapor extraction systems to treat soil and contamination; a sub-slab ventilation system at a building at an adjacent property to prevent contaminated vapors from entering the building; a groundwater collection, treatment, and disposal system; and disposed of underground storage tanks and their contents discovered at the Site.

The settlement requires, among other things: (a) that defendants pay to the United States a total of $756,000 in cash; and (b) that defendant Wiesner Estate sell the Site property in accordance with a formula set forth in the settlement papers that is expected to result in an additional payment to the United States of approximately $2 million.

“This settlement reflects the ongoing commitment of this Office to the elimination of toxic waste sites that can threaten human health and safety,” stated United States Attorney Lynch. “This Office will continue to hold those responsible for causing or contributing to hazardous waste sites accountable under the law.”

“Chemicals like PCE can cause serious health effects and EPA took action to reduce the risks posed by chemicals at this site, including treating of over 270 million gallons of contaminated ground water, installing systems to take vapors out of the soil that can get into buildings and installing a system in a building where vapors were getting in,” said EPA Regional Administrator Enck. “With this settlement, the parties responsible for the pollution are being held accountable for their part in the contamination.”

The settlement was subject to a 30-day public comment period during which no comments were received.

The government’s case was being litigated by Assistant United States Attorney Robert B. Kambic and Assistant Regional Counsel Argie Cirillo of EPA.

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