New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos and Attorney General Letitia James this week announced the convictions of Cross Tie Disposal, Inc. (Cross Tie), 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.
The convictions are the result of a joint investigation by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) and DEC. In 2015, the County of Chenango Industrial Development Agency (IDA) created the Chenango County Rail Revitalization project to repair and improve railroad tracks in Chenango County. The IDA selected Frontier Railroad Services, LLC (Frontier), a Pennsylvania-based railroad contractor, to oversee the project.
In February 2016, Frontier hired Cross Tie as a subcontractor to dispose old cross ties, the 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. To conceal this illegal disposal, Young created 30 fraudulent receipts, known as scale tickets, to falsely show that the ties were properly disposed at a facility in Erie County. Relying on these fake tickets, Frontier paid Cross Tie more than $50,000 for the disposal, apparently 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.
Pursuant to New York Environmental Conservation Law, it is illegal to release hazardous substances that may enter the environment. According to DEC’s regulations, a substance is hazardous if it may cause physical injury or illness in humans, a potential threat to the environment, or a demonstrated threat to biological life cycles when improperly managed.
To prevent potential harm from hazardous substances, they can only be legally disposed of at a DEC-permitted solid waste management facility. The DEC requires solid waste management facilities to follow strict guidelines to avoid potentially harmful impacts to public health and the environment, and it is illegal to operate such a facility without a permit from the agency. The Chenango County property was not lawfully permitted to accept railroad ties for disposal.
Cross Tie pleaded guilty to Grand Larceny in the Second Degree (a Class C felony) and Endangering Public Health, Safety, or the Environment in the Third Degree (a Class E felony), while Young pleaded guilty to one count of Endangering Public Health, Safety, or the Environment in the Third Degree. Both Cross Tie 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 over $117,000 in penalties and fines and are financially responsible for removing and properly disposing the illegally dumped railroad ties.
Photo of wood railroad ties provided.