Environmental Strike Force Investigation Results in Burlington Highway Maintenance Company Gillis Brothers, Inc.Settlement with AG Coakley’s Office for Solid Waste and False Claims Act Violations

Settlement provides payments to the Commonwealth and environmental restoration

BOSTON — A Burlington highway maintenance company has resolved charges that it illegally filled wetlands and dumped solid waste material that it removed from state highway catch basins, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today.  Under the terms of the settlement, Gillis Brothers, Inc. (Gillis) will restore the damaged wetlands and will pay $37,500 in civil penalties for violations of the Solid Waste and False Claims Acts.  Gillis will also contribute $12,500 to the Mystic River Watershed Association for the construction of a rain garden at the Beebe School in Malden, MA. “Anyone who contracts with state or local government for services must fully comply with the terms of the contract, especially those provisions that are included for the protection of the public health and environment,” AG Coakley said.   

According to the complaint, filed in Suffolk Superior Court today, Gillis entered into a contract with the Massachusetts Highway Department (MHD) to clean catch basins at various locations.  The contract required the disposal of the catch basin cleanings in accordance with the regulations, policies, and guidance of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) and to notify MHD of the location of the approved dumpsites.  Despite the explicit requirements in the contract that the material be disposed of in accordance with state environmental laws, Gillis disposed of these catch basin cleanings at its property in Burlington and at private property in Pittsfield. 

The case was investigated and prosecuted by Massachusetts Environmental Strike Force (ESF), an interagency unit that includes attorneys from the Attorney General’s Office and MassDEP, and investigators and engineers from the MassDEP. The ESF is overseen by Attorney General Martha Coakley and MassDEP Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell. The ESF investigates and prosecutes cases that harm or threaten the state’s water, air, or land and that pose a threat to the environment.

“Improper disposal of street and catch basin sweepings, which contain residual petroleum products, violates environmental protection regulations due to the harm these materials can cause surface and groundwater as well as to aquatic species,” said MassDEP ESF Director Pamela Talbot.  “This is the third in a series of Strike Force cases involving illegal disposal of street sweepings, and MassDEP is committed to making sure state contractors are held accountable.”

According to the complaint, Gillis stored large piles of unscreened and screened street sweepings at his property in Burlington without a site assignment from the Burlington Board of Health or a solid waste facility permit from MassDEP to operate the site as either a transfer station or a temporary solid waste storage facility.  Additionally, Gillis allegedly dumped approximately three tons of catch basin cleanings on private property in Pittsfield.  The complaint further alleges that Gillis filled and altered approximately 2,000 square feet of Bordering Vegetated Wetlands on the Burlington property with sand, rocks, and gravel.  

The $37,500 in civil penalties includes a $10,000 penalty for the alleged violation of the False Claims Act by improperly disposing of the catch basin cleanings despite the terms of the contract with MHD.  It also includes a $12,500 penalty for the alleged violation of the Solid Waste Disposal Act and Wetlands Protection Act, and a $15,000 penalty which will be waived provided the defendant complies with all of the terms of the judgment.

Assistant Attorney General Betsy Harper of AG Coakley’s Environmental Protection Division handled the case.  Pamela Talbot and Richard Tomczyk of the Environmental Strike Force handled the case for MassDEP.

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