For Immediate Release
Staten Islanders Sue for Toxic Waste Dump Cleanup
Fed up with years of inaction by city and state, residents seek justice
WASHINGTON - Staten Island residents are going to court to force the cleanup
of an abandoned toxic waste dump in the Great Kills section of the
The public interest law firm Earthjustice filed a lawsuit
today in federal district court in Manhattan on behalf of the Northern
Great Kills Civic Association. The association represents residents
living near the 272-acre Brookfield landfill.
Between 1974 and 1980, tens of thousands of gallons of toxic
industrial waste were dumped illegally at the landfill, intended only
for municipal solid waste. It was one of five city landfills involved
in a 1982 federal investigation into illegal dumping which sent a city
Department of Sanitation official and a hauling operator to prison.
"Those convicted of dumping this toxic waste have long ago served
their time. But 30 years later, their poisonous legacy remains," said
Earthjustice attorney Keri Powell. "We're filing this lawsuit to make
sure this mess is cleaned up and the residents of Great Kills can
reclaim their community from contamination."
Staten Island Borough President James P. Molinaro, who has long
called for the landfill's cleanup, expressed support for the litigation.
"You might remember 'Johnny Cash,' the Department of Sanitation
official? He's the one who went to jail for allowing trucks to dump up
to 50,000 gallons a day of toxic waste in return for cash bribes," said
Borough President James Molinaro. "Well, Johnny Cash has been out of
prison for years now. Unfortunately, the mess he made here in Staten
Island still hasn't been cleaned up."
State Senator Andrew Lanza, Assemblyman Michael Cusick, Assemblyman
Louis R. Tobacco, Councilman Vincent M. Ignizio, and Councilman Michael
McMahon have also pressed for action at the Brookfield site and have
spoken up in favor of the residents' lawsuit.
In 1990, the city announced it had set aside $600 million for the
cleanup of the five city landfills involved in the 1982 scandal. While
cleanup has concluded at the Pelham Bay landfill in the Bronx, the
Edgemere landfill in Queens, and the Fountain Avenue and Pennsylvania
Avenue landfills in Brooklyn, work still has yet to begin on the
Brookfield site in Staten Island.
"We have been patient, cooperating in good faith with agency
officials who have offered us nothing but empty promises," said John
Felicetti, co-chair of the Citizens Advisory Committee for the
Brookfield Remediation. "At first there was money but no cleanup plan.
Now we have a plan, but no money. While the city and state agencies
bicker about who should foot the cleanup bill, our community is
At the time the scandal was uncovered, it was compared to the
infamous incident at Love Canal which gave rise to the nation's
environmental health movement.
"We've watched as landfills in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens have
been cleaned up. Decades have gone by and we're still waiting for our
community to be taken care of," said Geri Kelsch, president of the
Northern Great Kills Civic Association. "I was still a child when this
illegal dumping was uncovered. Now I have children of my own. We're
fighting so a third generation of Staten Islanders won't have to live
with poison in their backyard."
Though far smaller than the borough's infamous Fresh Kills landfill,
the Brookfield site poses nearly as great a threat to the environment
as its 3,000-acre counterpart, because of the toxic combination of
cyanide, lead, arsenic, and other contaminants leaking from the
The federal investigation found that somewhere between 10,000
gallons a week to 50,000 gallons a day of hazardous waste were dumped
illegally at the site during its last six years of operation. The oil,
sludge, metal plating, lacquers and solvents, which came from
manufacturers throughout the region, remain buried on the site and feed
the 95,000 gallons of contaminated water which leak from the site each
day into groundwater and the Richmond Creek.
There are nearly 10,000 people living within a quarter-mile of the
landfill. In addition, four schools and one church -- the Tanglewood
Nursery School, P.S. 37, P.S. 32, St. Patrick's School, and St.
Patrick's church -- are within a quarter mile of the landfill.
A copy of the lawsuit filed today can be found at: http://www.earthjustice.org/library/legal_docs/brookfield-initial-complaint-original-signed.pdf
Sustain our Journalism
If you believe in Common Dreams, if you believe in people-powered independent journalism, please support our Spring drive now and help progressive media that believes as passionately as you do in defending the common good and building a more just, sustainable, and equitable world.