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Press Release

United States Sues Owners And Operators Of Orange County Horse Training Facility For Filling Wetlands In Violation Of Federal Clean Water Act

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of New York

Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Lisa F. Garcia, the Regional Administrator for Region 2 of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”), announced today that the United States has filed a civil lawsuit against THOMAS PUSHKAL, JENNIFER VANOVER, EDWARD PUSHKAL, FRANCES PUSHKAL, and MAPLEWOOD WARMBLOODS, LLC (collectively, the “defendants”) for allegedly filling wetlands in Orange County protected by the federal Clean Water Act.  The Complaint asks the Court to award injunctive relief and civil penalties for the violations.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “As alleged, the defendants violated the Clean Water Act by discharging concrete, metal, glass, and other fill material into wetlands that are part of the waters of the United States.  This lawsuit will hold the defendants accountable for allegedly violating our environmental laws and require them to remedy the alleged significant damage they have caused to protected wetlands.”

EPA Regional Administrator Lisa F. Garcia said: “Wetlands serve a vital role in decreasing water pollution, providing habitat for fish and wildlife, and reducing risks from flooding and storm surges.  Unlawful and unmitigated dredging and filling activities can destroy wetlands.  EPA will continue to protect these vulnerable ecosystems and fight for the health of wetlands by enforcing the law under the Clean Water Act.”

As alleged in the Complaint filed today in White Plains federal court:[1]

From 2015 to 2019, defendants THOMAS PUSHKAL, JENNIFER VANOVER, and their business MAPLEWOOD WARMBLOODS, LLC discharged fill material without a federal permit into approximately 3.5 acres of wetlands, in areas referred to in the Complaint as the Bart Bull Road Site and the Expansion Site.  These discharges were made in the course of operating and expanding their horse breeding, boarding, and training facility in the Town of Wallkill, Orange County.

Specifically, from in or about June 2015 to March 2016, these defendants directed or permitted construction and demolition material to be trucked in and deposited at the Bart Bull Road Site and directed or permitted the use of heavy machinery to spread the fill material to level and raise the grade of the property. 

At the end of November 2018, EPA learned of the potential development activity at the Expansion Site and, in December 2018, cautioned defendant THOMAS PUSHKAL by phone that if he was filling protected wetlands on any additional properties, he would need a federal permit. 

Nonetheless, beginning in or about December 2018 and continuing to April 2019, without a permit, these defendants used dump trucks and other heavy machinery to engage in extensive earthmoving, grading, and filling activities to construct private access roads through the Expansion Site.  The construction of these roads caused fill to be discharged into 1.5 acres of wetlands at the Expansion Site.  Some wetlands filled at the Expansion Site are on property owned by defendants EDWARD PUSHKAL and FRANCES PUSHKAL, who, at a minimum, knew or should have known of, but failed to exercise their authority to prevent, the discharges.

The wetlands that are the subject of the Complaint are adjacent to the Wallkill River, a traditional navigable water.  The fill material discharged into the wetlands included, among other things, dirt, rock, brick, wood, electrical wiring, ceramic, asphalt, concrete, rebar, PVC piping, metal, and glass.

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This case is being handled by the Office’s Environmental Protection Unit.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Zachary Bannon and Alyssa O’Gallagher are in charge of the case.


[1] As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Complaint and the description of the Complaint set forth herein constitution only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.

Contact

Nicholas Biase
(212) 637-2600

Updated July 24, 2023

Topic
Environment
Press Release Number: 23-258