East Boston environmental activists that have worked for decades to try and keep the Belle Isle Marsh Reservation clean are fuming after it was revealed this week that a local auto repair shop was caught dumping there.
D&M Auto Doctor on Bennington Street, a business that residents have complained about for years and has been on the radar of community groups like the Orient Heights Neighborhood Council, is being sued for allegedly failing to clean up underground gasoline contamination and not removing construction and demolition debris that was illegally dumped in the Belle Isle Marsh Reservation.
The charges were brought forth this week by Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office.
“Massachusetts law requires owners of contaminated properties to clean up their properties in order to prevent risk to public health and the environment from the dangers of hazardous materials,” said Coakley. “Not only do we allege that this business put the Belle Isle Marsh at risk by failing to remediate the gasoline contamination on the property, but it directly impacted this important natural resource through the dumping of solid waste in a valuable, state-owned wetland.”
According to the complaint filed in Suffolk Superior Court, the owner of D & M, Manuele Scata, allegedly failed to clean up underground gasoline contamination at his auto business, D&M Auto Doctor and was also accused of failing to remove construction and demolition debris that he dumped – or allowed others to dump – in the Belle Isle Marsh.
“Dumping in any area is serious, but in an Area of Critical Environmental Concern, it is an especially intolerable act,” said MassDEP Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell. “Mr. Scata’s action harmed the flora, fauna and species that rely on this important urban marshland. This case sends a clear message that it is far more cost-effective and better for business to do it right the first time.”
The lawsuit also alleges that Scata violated the state’s hazardous waste law by failing to assess and remediate the gasoline-contaminated soil and groundwater at his property, even after entering into an administrative consent order with the MassDEP to do so in 2006.
Scata’s business came under scrutiny prior to April 2010 when he dumped – or allowed others to dump – three large piles of construction and demolition debris from his property in a wetland buffer area of the Belle Isle Marsh. The dumping was in violation of state wetlands and solid waste law.
The complaint also alleges that Scata improperly stored waste oil at his property in 2010 in non-compliance with state hazardous waste management requirements.
Belle Isle is a protected reserve managed by the state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). The marsh was saved in the early 1980s by then Governor Michael Dukakis after there was a plan by Massport to construct huge containers to store jet fuel. Since that time the Belle Isle Marsh has become an area of ecological importance as Boston’s last remaining salt marsh.
The marsh serves as a nursery for fish and shellfish and provides critical habitat to many locally rare salt marsh plants and wildlife, including at least five species of birds state-listed as endangered, threatened, or of special concern. The marshes also provide vitally important flood damage prevention to the surrounding human communities, as alleged in the complaint.
Each year local environmentalists and volunteer groups clean the marsh of litter and other debris in an effort to keep it environmentally sound. “So much for the appreciation of a wetland,” said member of the Friends of Belle Isle Marsh group, Gail Miller of the legations against D & M. “I applaud the work of the Attorney General’s office and hope this lawsuit will help to serve in communicating that this is not acceptable and that you will get caught.”
The AG’s Office is seeking an order requiring Scata to complete assessment and remediation of the soil and groundwater contamination at his property as well as any other areas to which the contamination may have migrated. The complaint also requests an order requiring Scata to remove the three piles of construction and demolition debris in the Belle Isle Marsh that allegedly originated from his property.
Finally, the AG’s Office has asked the court to assess civil penalties against Scata for his ongoing violations of the state hazardous waste, solid waste, and wetlands laws, and to require him to pay approximately $10,000 in MassDEP compliance fees and response costs, as well as the administrative penalties, that he currently owes the Commonwealth.