The owner of a shuttered Port Jefferson Station aviation plant that became a Superfund cleanup site has agreed to let the state dispose of hazardous wastes on his property, state officials said.
The move spares Gerald Cohen, of St. James, from possible jail time for contempt.
The agreement, reached Monday, calls for Cohen and his former company, Lawrence Aviation Industries Inc., to allow contractors working for the state Department of Environmental Conservation onto his property to inspect and clean up spilled petroleum and toxic waste pits.
Cohen is liable for the cleanup costs and must pay a $2,500 fine, according to the state.
The move comes a month after the state attorney general's office sought civil and criminal contempt charges in Suffolk County Supreme Court against Cohen and his company for not addressing the petroleum contamination as promised in a 2006 consent agreement.
Cohen was the target of a criminal case brought by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2006 over pollution on his property caused by years of dumping solvents and other chemicals into the ground. Cohen pleaded guilty in that case and served prison time, and the EPA has so far spent millions cleaning up the property.
The state brought the action against Cohen after it became clear that the EPA was not going to also clean up the petroleum, according to court records.
Cohen's attorney, Peter Hotis of Bay Shore, said his 80-year-old client became overwhelmed by the cases against him.
"He's an elderly man who's done all in his power to keep the situation from escalating beyond what currently exists in accommodating both the state and federal government with the cleanup of his property," Hotis said Wednesday. "If my client had the money, he would have cleaned it up to everyone's satisfaction."
Brookhaven Supervisor Edward Romaine, who has been pushing for the cleanup of the site, lauded the agreement.
"We wanted the oil spills and leaks cleaned up, and this is a step in the right direction," he said. "This site has been contaminated for far too long."
Lawrence Aviation, which closed in 2003, manufactured parts for the aeronautical industry. The 126-acre parcel was declared a federal Superfund site in 2000, after industrial wastes dumped into the ground at the property over decades created a hazardous underground plume that contaminated the surrounding area.