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Cascino lawyer says waste went to Mass. ‘farm’

HUDSON—Is it the right stuff? And did he take it to the right place?

Those are two crucial questions the judge wants answered in the continuing legal saga of Salvatore Cascino and the 9,650 cubic yards of solid waste the court determined that he illegally dumped on his Copake property.

Mr. Cascino, 77, of Larchmont in Westchester County, has spent the past 19 years racking up violations of federal, state and town laws for illegal dumping, building and excavating at a place he calls Copake Valley Farm along the east side of Route 22 in Copake.

Last week Mr. Cascino and his latest attorney, Greg Lubow, were back in Columbia County Court before Columbia County Acting Supreme Court Judge Jonathan Nichols for a periodic review of the case initiated by two court actions brought against Mr. Cascino in 2013 by the Town of Copake for his illegal activities.

In his February 2016 ruling on the matters, Judge Nichols found Mr. Cascino guilty of both criminal and civil contempt. The judge ordered him to spend at least 60 days in the Columbia County Jail, to rectify certain wrongs associated with illegally-built structures and unlawful dumping on his property, to pay fines and reimburse Copake for legal fees expended in bringing suit against him. The judge’s decision indicates Mr. Cascino must remain in jail until the violations are resolved.

As of August 17, Mr. Cascino has been in the Columbia County Jail for 356 consecutive days for his failure to obey the part of the court order that directs him to remove 9,650 cubic yards of illegally dumped solid waste from his 300-acre Copake property. He spent an additional 69 days in the clink from February to May 2016, when the judge released him so he could continue the removal of the offending material. But when Mr. Cascino failed to provide the required proof that he had “purged his contempt” by completing the removal task, Judge Nichols sent him back to lock-up last August 26. He has been there ever since–a total of 425 days.

In another effort to get Mr. Cascino out of jail August 9, Mr. Lubow presented the court with hundreds of documents which he described as affirmations, affidavits and receipts or tickets for material trucked off the Cascino property to Meadow Farm in South Lee, MA.

Neither the court nor Victor Meyers, the attorney for the Town of Copake had laid eyes on the documents prior to the moment they were presented by Mr. Lubow, who said he did not have time to get copies to anyone earlier because the work had just been finished August 5.

The judge asked Mr. Lubow if the material noted in the receipts was the material he had ordered removed and how that was determined. The attorney said excavation, which included the bulldozing of acres of corn growing there, was performed on the area Copake officials had indicated was the dump site when they visited in May.

The judge asked if Copake officials had been invited back to property to verify his assertion. Mr. Lubow said they had not been asked to return due to time constraints.

Attorney Meyers then told the court that the location where the material was allegedly taken is “not a permitted facility. He dumped it at a farm in Massachusetts.” Mr. Meyers went on to say that based on previous hearings the court had required that the material be disposed of at a licensed solid waste facility.

Mr. Lubow argued that where the material was to be disposed of was not part of the court’s order and it was “beyond the scope of this proceeding.”

Even so, Mr. Lubow said the among the documents presented was an affidavit from a Meadow Farm employee indicating the place is a licensed facility.

A subsequent internet search by The Columbia Paper for Meadow Farm reveals it is a composting facility that accepts residential and commercial lawn and yard waste; residential and commercial wood waste, including brush, logs and stumps; commercial cardboard; agricultural waste and commercial food waste and converts it into mulch, compost or topsoil which it then sells, according to its website: http://meadowfarmllc.com.

Yet the material that Mr. Cascino was supposed to dispose of is described as “solid waste” … “unrecognizable” … “pulverized… crushed to the point where it is very small, very fine and cannot be readily identified by the human eye.” The material was also found to contain “pieces of wire, metal, plastic, piping and adulterated wood,” according to the testimony of state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Investigator Jesse Paluch noted in the judge’s February 2016 order.

The town’s building inspector/code enforcement officer in 2013 testified that the material he saw on the Cascino property was “construction debris” containing new wood chips, red brick, plastic, plastic pipe, copper wire and steel pipe, which is also referenced in the judge’s decision.

In a phone call this week, Mr. Meyers told The Columbia Paper that he spoke to Meadow Farm owner, Thomas Touponce, who said he was not there when the Cascino material arrived and that the farm is not a licensed solid waste facility.

Mr. Meyers said based on the receipts presented, Mr. Cascino is contending that he shipped 8,158 cubic yards of material to Meadow Farm. Mr. Meyers said the receipts, which bear the Copake Valley Farm name, identify the material as a “soil mix.”

A call to Meadow Farm by The Columbia Paper was not returned.

To find out the going rate to dispose of materials, such as those witnessed by officials at Copake Valley Farm, The Columbia Paper called a local waste management company in Hillsdale, Carmen Barbato, Inc.

Elaine Barbato said her family’s facility does not accept hazardous waste, but that other materials brought in by the truckload must pass over the facility’s scale and the disposal charge is $105/ton.

Converting cubic yards to tons (multiply by 1.4) suggests that the material Mr. Cascino must remove would weigh over 13.5 tons and might have cost him over $1.4 million to dispose of at the rate cited by Ms. Barbato.

In court August 9 Mr. Lubow put Mr. Cascino’s son, Peter Cascino, on the stand to testify about how this latest round of material had been collected and removed from the cornfield.

Last year, Mr. Cascino submitted to the court receipts for dumping nearly all of the 9,650 cubic yards of material. But the “receipts” were subsequently found by the court to be “bogus.” Mr. Cascino’s own attorney, at the time, told the court he had contacted two of the facilities where Mr. Cascino claimed to have disposed of the solid waste and was told by those in charge that the amounts of material and disposal dates indicated on the dump receipts did not match company records or that the material had not been dumped at their facilities.

When the time came for Mr. Meyers to cross examine Peter Cascino last week, the town’s attorney pointed out that since he was given no time to review the documents presented just that day he could not go forward. Mr. Lubow initially said Mr. Meyer could review the four-inch stack of documents, but after five minutes, changed his mind and withdrew the offer.

At that point, the judge set August 23 at 9 a.m. for further review of the case.

Judge Nichols denied Mr. Lubow’s request that his client be released on $10,000 bail. The judge said he was seeking compliance with his order and had seen no proof that the material in question had been removed.

To contact Diane Valden email dvalden@columbiapaper.com

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