SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

February 1, 2014

Site owner agrees to pay for cleanup

BY JULIE MANGANIS
STAFF WRITER

---- — DANVERS — The owner of the former Crease and Cook Tannery Superfund site in Danvers has agreed to pay nearly $400,000 to settle allegations that he failed to address contamination on the property.

The attorney general’s office announced yesterday that as part of a consent judgment, Nicholas Decoulos of Gloucester will pay $187,500 in civil penalties and more than $200,000 to reimburse the state for the cost of cleaning up the site after he failed to take action.

The consent judgment, entered on Thursday by a Suffolk Superior Court judge, ends 41/2 years of litigation between the state Department of Environmental Protection and Decoulos. In 2011, Decoulos was found liable for the costs of the cleanup.

In 2013, the 17-acre site, along the Crane River, near Water Street and Route 128, was designated a federal Superfund site.

According to the EPA, some 450 tons of soil contaminated with arsenic, chromium and dioxin, among other hazards, has been removed and hauled away to a facility in Maine.

The toxins were the result of years of leather tanning at the old plant, which went bankrupt and shut down in 1984. The area also became contaminated with asbestos after Decoulos removed a building there without properly removing that substance first, officials said.

Decoulos, an attorney with a practice in Peabody, purchased the land in 2003 through a trust.

In addition to the payments, Decoulos will be required to maintain fencing and warning signs around the areas with highest levels of contamination, and monitor the site for illegal trespassers.

Last September, authorities had to remove an encampment of homeless people on the site.

The order remains in effect until the EPA takes jurisdiction of the site, state officials said.

“Strict compliance with the state’s hazardous waste laws is essential to protecting the public and environment,” Attorney General Martha Coakley said in a statement announcing the judgment. “Property owners cannot shift the costs of dealing with contamination at their properties onto taxpayers.”

Decoulos filed suit last year against the former owners of the site, Crease and Cook, a corporation that became defunct in 1990. Just one of the officers of that corporation is still alive, a 92-year-old Winchester man.

In that suit, which is in the early stages of litigation, Decoulos seeks to hold the former owners liable for any future costs of the cleanup, as well as for a portion of the cost of asbestos removal.

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at jmanganis@salemnews.com or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.