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DEC sues Orange County industrial site owners

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The state Department of Environmental Conservation is suing the owners of an industrial site in Orange County to recover the costs of testing for environmental contamination.

DEC Orange County moodna creekThe DEC claims it incurred $134,178 in costs for assessing hazardous wastes at 2 Mill St. in Cornwall, to determine risks posed to people and the environment.

The state eventually decided that contaminants were within acceptable levels for commercial or industrial uses, and it removed the property from its registry of inactive hazardous waste disposal sites.

The complaint, filed on Nov. 7 in federal court in White Plains, names Isaac Landau, Sandor Landau, Cornwall Warehousing Inc., Moodna Creek Development Ltd. and SR II Inc.

The 70-acre property is on Moodna Creek, a tributary of the Hudson River. It includes buildings used for light industry and warehousing and two lagoons used for storing hazardous wastes.

From the 1820s to the 1980s, textiles were made at the site. The most recent manufacturer, Majestic Weaving Co., made woolen carpets until it went out of business around 1993.

Majestic, the complaint states, had discharged hazardous chemicals into lagoons and stored them in drums.

Sandor Landau of Brooklyn owned part of the site in the late 1980s and then sold his parcels to Cornwall Warehousing and SR II. Both companies are registered at his home.

Isaac Landau of Monroe is CEO of Moodna Creek Development, owner of the rest of the site, the lawsuit states, and he manages the disposal of hazardous wastes.

Over the years, DEC and the federal Environmental Protection Agency have conducted tests that have detected metals, solvents and insecticides in lagoon sediment, soil and groundwater.

In the 1980s, for instance, the EPA found toluene, a solvent that can cause brain damage, in the lagoons.

DEC testing found high levels of copper, zinc, iron and chromium.

The state listed the site on its registry of waste disposal sites, a classification that requires more investigation to determine if there is a significant threat to public health.

A 1989 DEC inspection found leaking drums, torn liners in the lagoons and monitoring wells that were in poor condition.

The state concluded that the site “posed a very great threat to the environment and needed immediate attention.”

The owners removed about 70 drums, agreed to develop a plan to assess contamination and conducted some tests in the 1990s.

Moodna Creek also petitioned the state to remove the site from the registry. The DEC denied the request.

The company would not agree to a consent order in 2011 to do more testing. A few weeks later a major fire broke out in buildings that the state had wanted to test. The DEC quickly hired a contractor to do the work.

The contractor was initially denied access to the site, the complaint states, “on instructions from Isaac Laundau.”

The contractor eventually sampled soil and sediments and groundwater. Several hazardous metals, insecticides and solvents were found.

The DEC concluded that the lagoons were the primary problem, but contamination levels were acceptable for commercial or industrial uses. The state notified the EPA that no further sampling or testing was required.

The DEC is suing the owners to recover its costs, under the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act and the state public nuisance law.

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