Businessman Indicted in Death by Toxic Waste
SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) _ A second-degree manslaughter charge was brought Wednesday against a businessman who prosecutors say paid for the illegal dumping of toxic chemical wastes that killed a man.
Joseph R. Polvino is the first person indicted in New York state on a charge of reckless manslaughter in connection with the illegal dumping of hazardous wastes, said Karel Keuker, a lawyer with the state’s Organized Crime Task Force.
The indictment, returned Aug. 20 and unsealed Wednesday, said Polvino caused the death of Carl R. Witherel Sr. ″with a complete disregard of the extreme risks inherent in the handling of hazardous wastes.″
Prosecutors accuse Polvino of paying Witherel, 43, of Syracuse, to illegally dump seven drums of chemicals.
Polvino, 50, of West Henrietta, near Rochester, pleaded innocent at his arraignment. He was released on $2,500 bail and told to return to court on Oct. 4.
Defense attorneys Edward Z. Menkin and Larry Andolina had no comment as they left the courtroom with their client, who is part owner of Polvino Construction Co. in Rochester.
Polvino also was charged with second-degree assault and first-degree unlawful dealing in hazardous wastes, both felonies, and fourth-degree endangerment of the public’s health and sixth-degree conspiracy, both misdemeanors. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison on the manslaughter count and could have to reimburse the state for cleanup costs.
Keuker said there are indications that Witherel and Polvino may have conspired on other illegal dumpings, but he declined any further comment.
Witherel was found dead March 6 on private property in Cicero, just outside Syracuse. He was killed by chemical burns to his lungs from breathing fumes from the wastes he was dumping, Keuker said.
The drums contained acids that reacted with sodium hydrochloride, according to Kate Lacey, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
Police believe the drums came from a Rochester warehouse that Polvino’s family bought in January for $70,000 from H.B.T. Corp., which used chemicals to extract silver from X-ray and photographic film and paper.
Keuker said the dumping did little environmental damage, but did endanger residents. The department has cleaned up the site and removed contaminated soil, he said.