The owner of a contaminated property along Crane River in Danvers has agreed to pay nearly $400,000 to clean up the property.
Nicholas J. Decoulos, who owns the former Creese and Cook Tannery Superfund site, “failed to clean up soils and sediments at the site, which contain high levels of arsenic and dioxin," said Attorney General Martha Coakley.
The $387,500 that Decoulos, who is an attorney with a practice in Peabody, will pay includes $187,500 in civil penalties and more than $200,000 to reimburse Massachusetts for contractor expenses and other costs incurred by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to address the contamination.
“Strict compliance with the state’s hazardous waste laws is essential to protecting the public and environment,” AG Coakley said. “Property owners cannot shift the costs of dealing with contamination at their properties on to taxpayers.”
The former company was a leather tanning and finishing operation. Solid wastes from the manufacturing process were put on two onsite landfills.
The tannery was in operation through most of the 20th century until it closed in 1983. The former tannery was re-developed into 28 condos in 1986.
The Environmental Protection Agency listed the property on the National Priorities List of Superfund sites in May 2013.
The AG’s Office said the property owner “violated state hazardous waste law by refusing to secure the most dangerous sections of the property, which were being accessed by trespassers." He also "violated the state’s clean air laws by demolishing a building at the property without first removing asbestos.”
“MassDEP previously determined that, without controls to prevent access to the property, the contaminated surface soils in the former landfills and other areas of the property, along with contaminated sediment in the Crane River located adjacent to the site, posed an imminent hazard to public health, welfare, and safety, and the environment,” said Coakley’s office.
In addition to paying for the clean up, Decoulos will need to have fencing and warning signs around the most contaminated areas to the property. The signs will warn the public of the potential hazards. He will also regularly inspect the property and report to MassDEP of any trespasser on the property.
“The failure to appropriately clean up this contaminated site resulted in the Commonwealth taking steps to secure this property, protect nearby residents and the public and ultimately move toward cleaning up the site,” said Kenneth Kimmell, commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP).
Decoulos purchased the land in 2003 through a trust. He filed suit last year against the former owners of the site, which was a corporation that became defunct in 1990, according to the Salem News.