A New York automobile salvage yard owned by the Gotti family (a member of the family is named in the summons), has been sued for releasing dangerous automobile chemicals and oil into the environment. New York Attorney General Letitia James and Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos recently announced a lawsuit against the owners and operators of LSM Auto Parts & Recycling (LSM).
New York Attorney General Letitia James and Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos, recently announced a lawsuit against the owners and operators of LSM Auto Parts & Recycling (LSM), an automobile salvage yard, for releasing dangerous automobile chemicals and oil into the environment. LSM ignored critical regulations surrounding the cleanup of toxic automobile waste and was responsible for significant amounts of oil spillage in the community, contaminating the groundwater and soil in the area. LSM is located in Jamaica, Queens, which includes many low-income communities and communities of color.
Attorney General James said:
“If you make a mess, you clean it up. Most learn this old adage before they speak their first words, but it’s clear LSM never did. Instead, LSM flouted our environmental protection laws and mismanaged toxic chemicals and pollutants which pose a serious, long-term threat.” James added: “LSM will not get away with knowingly jeopardizing the health and safety of our communities. It’s time they clean up the dangerous mess they have made.”
DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said:
“Violations of New York state’s environmental laws and regulations are serious offenses that not only threaten our natural resources but also put a heavy burden on communities near non-compliant businesses.” Seggos added: “The daily operations at LSM Auto Parts and its unremedied oil spills led to contaminated runoff that threatens the environment and the community. Despite DEC’s ongoing outreach to take proper steps for cleanup, the owners are unresponsive and continue to operate with blatant disregard for the environment and the local community. DEC’s collaborative enforcement effort with Attorney General James and her office is a reminder that New York state has zero tolerance for anyone who breaks environmental laws that are created to protect public health and the environment.”
For years, LSM acted without regard for the surrounding neighborhood, resulting in hazardous and toxic conditions that repeatedly spilled out into the community. In addition to multiple unremedied gas and oil spills, petroleum and other toxic fluids pooled in several areas throughout the salvage yard. Employees often drained vehicle fluids directly onto the ground instead of into a waste container, thus allowing the chemicals to directly permeate the soil and groundwater. LSM stored gas and other hazardous fluid waste in large plastic tanks, which were neither properly sealed nor capable of withstanding the heat or necessary containment of potential combustion. Gas, oil, and antifreeze regularly spilled out of the salvage yard and into the street, running down sidewalks and into storm drains.
DEC, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the New York City Police Department (NYPD), and the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) have all repeatedly observed these conditions and violations of state laws and regulations that prevent the release of toxic and hazardous fluids from vehicle dismantling operations. DEC contacted LSM in 2019 to alert them of the violations and propose an administrative resolution to persisting hazards. LSM failed to respond, but their consultants suggested a plan for remediation was forthcoming. No such plan was ever presented to DEC. In late 2021, against the direction of DEC, LSM covered a significant portion of the yard with a layer of concrete, an action which obstructs both investigation and remediation.
The lawsuit filed (August 12 2022) alleges LSM violated the following state laws and regulations:
- The “vehicle dismantling law,” which requires that vehicle dismantlers recover and reuse or properly dispose of oil, gasoline, coolant, and a host of other toxic automobile fluids to avoid their contamination of surface and ground water, soil, and the air.
- The “oil spill law,” which requires all spills of petroleum products to be immediately reported and contained in order to limit the spill’s pollution of surface and groundwaters and public exposure to fumes, fires, and other hazards.
- DEC “petroleum bulk storage” regulations, which require facilities that store significant volumes of petroleum to securely contain the petroleum and provide for the early detection of leaks or potential leaks.
With this lawsuit, OAG and DEC will ensure LSM’s owners and operators are held accountable by seeking financial penalties, as well as order LSM to submit a work plan for investigating and remediating contamination at the site to be implemented upon approval by DEC and immediately move into compliance with hazardous fluid waste storage and disposal.
The defendants in this matter are LSM and Liberty Scrap Metal Inc. (Liberty Scrap Metal), which have operated the salvage yard, and Three Sons Real Estate Group, LLC (Three Sons) and its subsidiary, BGN Real Estate, LLC (BGN), which own the property itself.
Attorney General James thanks DEC Region 2, including Assistant Counsel James L. Simpson, for their close collaboration on this matter.
This matter is being handled by OAG’s Environmental Protection Bureau and is led by Senior Enforcement Counsel Andrew J. Gershon and Assistant Attorney General Max Shterngel under the supervision of Bureau Chief Lemuel M. Srolovic and Deputy Bureau Chief Monica Wagner. The Environmental Protection Bureau is a part of the Division for Social Justice, which is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Meghan Faux and under the oversight of First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.