Syracuse Trucking Company Settles Environmental Violation
SYRACUSE, NEW YORK - United States Attorney Richard S. Hartunian announced today that his office has settled a civil prosecution under the Clean Water Act. Riccelli Enterprises, Inc. filled in over 5 acres of federally regulated wetlands with a parking lot. Riccelli agreed to remove the illegal parking lot and pay a $50,000.00 fine. Riccelli signed a similar agreement with the State of New York, agreeing to remove the illegal parking lot and to pay an additional $50,000.00 fine.
The federal settlement is based upon a Complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York. The Complaint’s allegations include the following: Riccelli Enterprises, Inc. and Riccelli Enterprises, LLC are corporations with offices located at 6131 East Taft Road, North Syracuse, Onondaga County, New York. The Clean Water Act prohibits the discharge of pollutants into navigable waters unless a permit is obtained from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps). Sometime prior to July 30, 2008, and without seeking a permit from the Corps, Riccelli filled in wetlands to construct a parking lot at 6131 East Taft Road, North Syracuse. Riccelli used mechanized land-clearing and earth-moving equipment to fill in the parking lot.
An environmental study concluded that Riccelli had disturbed 6.06 acres of land, including 5.39 acres of regulated wetlands. The fill used by Riccelli to create the parking lot included dirt, spoil, rock, and sand, all of which are described as “pollutants” by the Clean Water Act. The Corps issued a Notice of Violation to Riccelli, which stated that Riccelli had filled in the parking lot without Department of the Army authorization and in violation of the Clean Water Act.
In August, 2013 Riccelli and the United States signed a Consent Decree. The Consent Decree provides in part that 1) Riccelli shall pay a civil penalty to the United States in the amount of $50,000.00, 2) Riccelli shall restore the 5.39 acres of disturbed wetlands, pursuant to a “Wetland Restoration and Monitoring Plan” prepared by an environmental firm in January, 2013, and 3) the United States may enter Riccelli’s premises at all reasonable times to monitor Riccelli’s activities, obtain samples, verify data submitted to the United States, and inspect and evaluate Riccelli’s restoration efforts. The Wetland Restoration and Monitoring Plan provides that Riccelli shall excavate and remove the fill material, add topsoil as needed, reseed and revegetate the area, restore the area to its condition before the parking lot was installed, and its environmental firm will submit annual monitoring reports for five years, which will include studies of hydrology, and samples of vegetation from 15 plots.
After the parties signed the Consent Decree a notice was published in the Federal Register and public comment was invited. No comments or objections were received. On October 24, 2013 the Consent Decree was approved and ordered by the Hon. Gary L. Sharpe, Chief U.S. District Judge.
Diane Kozlowski, the Chief of the Regulatory Branch of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Buffalo District, stated that, "[T]his resolution directly supports the Corps Regulatory Program's goal to provide strong protection of the nation’s aquatic environment, including wetlands, and help maintain the physical, chemical and biologic integrity of the nation’s waters. This resolution will help deter those entities who contemplate proceeding with a project in the vicinity of waters subject to regulation under the Clean Water Act without first contacting and coordinating with the Corps to obtain the proper authorizations required by law.”
Richard S. Hartunian, United States Attorney for the Northern District of New York, stated that “The United States Attorney’s Office is committed to the protection of the environment and the aggressive enforcement of the Clean Water Act. This case reflects a coordinated effort by this office,the Department of Justice, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.”
This matter is assigned to Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles E. Roberts. Colin Ozanne, Esq. of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Buffalo District, and Eric Hostetler, Esq. of the U.S. Department of Justice are also assigned. News inquiries should be directed to Executive Assistant U.S. Attorney John Duncan, tele. (315) 448-0672.