Garage Owner Fined, Ordered to Clean Up Wetlands Area

D&M Auto Doctor on Bennington Street was ordered to pay $170,000 in fines to the state for contaminating Belle Isle Marsh wetlands located behind the shop.

East Boston environmental activists that have worked for decades to try and keep the Belle Isle Marsh Reservation clean are happy that a local auto repair shop will pay a hefty fine for contaminating the wetlands there.

D&M Auto Doctor on Bennington Street, a business that residents have complained about for years and has been on the radar of community groups like the Orient Heights Neighborhood Council, has been ordered by the Attorney General’s office to clean up petroleum contamination and solid waste impacting vital state-owned wetlands adjacent to his property and pay more than $170,000 to the state in fines.

Manuele Scata, owner of D & M, had previously signed consent orders with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) in 2005 and 2006, agreeing to clean up the petroleum contamination on his property at 1181 Bennington St., but failed to perform any meaningful work under either of these orders. Scata’s property borders the Marsh–Boston’s last remaining salt marsh.

“By failing to meet his commitments to the MassDEP time and again, the property owner has put the public at serious risk due to the contamination on his property,” said Attorney General Martha Coakley. “We are pleased that the court has officially ordered him to eliminate the contamination that is impacting this valuable natural resource.”

Scata’s business came under scrutiny in 2010 when he dumped – or allowed others to dump – three large piles of construction and demolition debris from his property in a wetland buffer area of Belle Isle. The dumping was in violation of state wetlands and solid waste law.

During an inspection of the property, MassDEP discovered the construction and demolition debris located in the wetlands. The investigations also revealed hazardous waste storage violations at the property.

Coakley sued Scata in May on behalf of the MassDEP and sought civil penalties and reimbursement for costs incurred and fees owed to the state. Coakley also order Scata to clean up his property and comply with hazardous waste storage laws, but Scata did not respond or comply.

According to the final judgment, issued on Nov. 15 at Suffolk Superior Court, Scata has been ordered to remediate the gasoline-contaminated soil and groundwater contamination on his property, remove construction and demolition debris that was dumped in Belle Isle Marsh, pay $170,000 in civil penalties to the Commonwealth, and close to $10,000 in fees and costs.

“With this decision, the court has sent a clear message that property owners cannot ignore their environmental cleanup responsibilities,” said MassDEP Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell. “We look forward to the site finally being properly cleaned up.”

Belle Isle is a protected reserve managed by the state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). The marsh was saved in the early 1980s by then Governor Michael Dukakis after there was a plan by Massport to construct huge containers to store jet fuel. Since that time Belle Isle has become an area of ecological importance as Boston’s last remaining salt marsh.

The Marsh serves as a nursery for fish and shellfish and provides critical habitat to many locally rare salt marsh plants and wildlife, including at least five species of birds state-listed as endangered, threatened, or of special concern. The marshes also provide vitally important flood damage prevention to the surrounding human communities.

Each year local environmentalists and volunteer groups clean the Marsh of litter and other debris in an effort to keep it environmentally sound.

“So much for the appreciation of a wetland,” said member of the Friends of Belle Isle Marsh group, Gail Miller of the legations against D & M. “I applaud the work of the Attorney General’s office and hope this lawsuit will help to serve in communicating that this is not acceptable and that you will get caught.”

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