Stick In The Mud

FALCONER – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice have filed a legal complaint against Falconer business, Dependable Towing and Recovery, and its owner, David A. Whitehill, for allegedly filling wetlands to make a parking lot on his property.

In 2009, both the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the EPA issued “cease and desist” orders to Whitehill and Dependable Towing and Recovery after joint inspections with the New York State Department of Environmental Conversation revealed evidence of unauthorized filling of wetlands. According to John Martin, press officer for the EPA, Whitehill had filled in more than 16 acres of forested wetlands with soil and dirt.

Then in March 2010, the EPA issued an administrative order requiring Whitehill and Dependable Towing and Recovery to remove the illegal fill at the company’s facility. The owners and the company did not comply with the order, resulting in the legal action by the EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice announced Thursday.

The complaint seeks the restoration of the damaged wetlands by Whitehill and Dependable Towing and Recovery and financial penalties. According to filed complaints, the defendants are liable for a civil penalty of $37,500 per day for each violation of the Clean Water Act and remain in violation of the March 2010 order. According to the Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996, the defendants are also liable for a civil penalty for each day of violation of the March 2010 order.

The impacted wetlands are adjacent to Cassadaga Creek, which is a tributary to the Allegheny River. The Allegheny River joins the Monongahela River in the vicinity of Pittsburgh to form the Ohio River, which is the largest tributary to the Mississippi River.

Wetlands are valuable resources that naturally filter chemical contaminants from water and land, and help control floods. Wetlands also support a vast array of bird, plant, aquatic and animal life. Damaging or eliminating wetlands can be devastating to downstream waters by adding sediments to the streams. Martin said damaging wetlands in the area can also increase the likelihood of flooding.

“He knows it was illegal,” Martin said, referring to the fact Whitehill had a cease and desist order and an administrative order to stop filling the wetlands. “He has no excuse.”

Calls to Whitehill for comment were unreturned.