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For Release: Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Staten Island Executive Pleads Guilty in Environmental Cover-up

Soil Mechanics Drilling Corp. Vice President and Lead Engineer Falsified Cleanup Documents

A company vice president that police say falsified documents concerning a gasoline-contaminated remediation project on Staten Island pled guilty in Richmond County Criminal Court Tuesday afternoon, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced.

The plea was a result of an 18-month investigation by DEC Environmental Conservation Officers (ECOs) and the Richmond County District Attorney's (RCDA) office into Vincent Nantista, lead engineer and vice president of Soil Mechanics Drilling Corp.

"The actions of the defendant in this case would have jeopardized the health of anyone who stepped onto this property," DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. "It was a blatant attempt to put profits above public safety. I applaud the work of our investigators and the Richmond County District Attorney Michael E. McMahon and his staff in aggressively pursuing this case, which sends a strong message to others companies trying to cheat our environmental laws."

Arrested in January, Nantista pled guilty to offering a false instrument for filing in the second degree, a class A misdemeanor, and was ordered to pay $25,000 in asset forfeiture to the RCDA's office along with $25,000 in restitution to DEC. In addition, the court ordered that Nantista's professional engineer license be suspended for one year.

"With this guilty plea, Mr. Nantista has accepted responsibility for illegally filing false reports to impede NYS DEC's assessment of contaminated soil in the ground," said District Attorney Michael E. McMahon. "This type of criminal behavior puts both the environment and public at risk and will not be tolerated. I commend DEC staff and Commissioner Seggos for thoroughly investigating this matter and the professionalism they exhibited while working in partnership with ADAs Jeffrey Curiale and Andrew Sterrer."

The investigation began in June of 2015 when staff from DEC's Region 2 Division of Environmental Remediation noticed a possible false filing of reports concerning an ongoing cleanup project on Staten Island.

Soil Mechanics, a remediation company, was cleaning up a site of a former gas station at 900 Hylan Boulevard, that had, in prior years, caused significant gasoline contamination to the soil and surrounding groundwater. A construction project was planned for the site, and as part of the cleanup, Soil Mechanics staff were tasked with monitoring wells and bailing them of gasoline. However, after several years of remediation, contamination remained.

Investigators alleged that the professional engineer in charge of the project, Nantista, grew frustrated with the slow process and in attempt to speed up the project, altered monitoring data gathered by the company's field technicians.

DEC remediation staff and investigators from the Bureau of Environmental Crimes Investigation (BECI) unit visited the site and confirmed that the contamination was still present.

Nantista allegedly submitted false final reports to DEC that misrepresented the size and extent of the gasoline to make it appear the site was clean. DEC investigators set up surveillance on the site, and hours before a final inspection employees were observed removing gasoline from the wells so they would pass inspection.

BECI investigators and the Richmond County District Attorney's Office obtained search warrants, one for Soil Mechanics Environmental Services, 3770 Merrick Road, Seaford, and another at Soil Mechanics Environmental Services, 245A Broadway, Amityville, and seized materials related to the remediation project.

If you witness an environmental crime, contact the NYSDEC 24-hour Poacher and Polluter hotline at 1-844-DEC-ECOS (1-844-332-3267).

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