Company admits dumping hazardous waste in Chenango County

Nov. 22—New York Attorney General Letitia James and Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos on Tuesday announced the convictions of Cross Tie Disposal Inc., a Kentucky-based freight shipping and trucking company, and its vice president, Harold Young, 48, for illegally dumping contaminated railroad ties treated with hazardous materials in Chenango County and creating fake receipts to conceal the illegal disposal.

According to a media release from the attorney general's office, Cross Tie pleaded guilty to second-degree grand larceny, a class C felony, and third-degree endangering public health, safety, or the environment, a class E felony, while Young pleaded guilty to one count of third-degree endangering public health, safety, or the environment. Both the company and Young were sentenced in Chenango County Court to three-year conditional discharges. As part of their respective sentences, both Cross Tie and Young agreed to pay more than $117,000 in penalties and fines and are financially responsible for removing and properly disposing the illegally dumped railroad ties.

"Exposure to hazardous materials puts New Yorkers and our environment at risk," James said in the release. "Not only did Harold Young and his company jeopardize the health of New Yorkers, they also violated state law and tried to cover their tracks. I will continue to use every tool at my disposal to investigate and halt fraud and punish offenders, and I thank DEC and Commissioner Seggos for their collaboration and shared commitment to this cause."

"Dumping hazardous materials is illegal and has the potential to destroy natural resources and impact the health of New York's communities," Seggos said. "Creosote is a group of dangerous chemicals and DEC's joint enforcement action with Attorney General James, which resulted in a conviction, demonstrates that the state of New York will hold Cross Tie Disposal, Inc., accountable for its unlawful actions to the full extent of the law."

The convictions are the result of a joint investigation by the Office of the Attorney General and DEC. In 2015, the County of Chenango Industrial Development Agency created the Chenango County Rail Revitalization project to repair and improve railroad tracks in Chenango County, the release said. The IDA selected Frontier Railroad Services LLC, a Pennsylvania-based railroad contractor, to oversee the project. In February 2016, Frontier hired Cross Tie as a subcontractor to properly dispose of old cross ties, which are hazardous old wood beams that hold railroad tracks in place and ensure there is proper distance between rails. The cross ties contain a variety of wood preservative called creosote, which comes from the high temperature treatment of wood and coal tar. Since 2008, New York state Creosote Law banned the manufacturing, sale, and use of creosote and required all products containing it to be disposed of in a landfill permitted by DEC.

Cross Tie was supposed to dispose of this waste at a regulated site in Erie County, but under the supervision and direction of Young, it instead dumped the contaminated railroad ties on a property in Chenango County, the release said. To conceal the illegal disposal, Young created 30 fraudulent receipts, known as scale tickets, to falsely show that the ties were properly disposed of at a facility in Erie County. Relying on the fake tickets, Frontier paid Cross Tie more than $50,000 for the disposal, unaware that the railroad ties were dumped illegally. In March of this year, Cross Tie and Young were arraigned and charged with crimes for their roles in the scheme.

In March 2020, DEC Environmental Conservation Police Officers and OAG detectives collected samples of the railroad ties that were dumped in Chenango County while they were testing for the presence of hazardous substances. Subsequent laboratory analysis revealed that the ties were contaminated with more than 100 gallons each of 11 different hazardous substances.

According to DEC records, the Chenango County property was not lawfully permitted to accept railroad ties for disposal, according to the release.