Firm also owed $1.5M in unpaid taxes
Kings County District Attorney's Office
Kings County District Attorney Charles J. Hynes on Friday announced that Jack Abel and Avi Abel, the father-and-son owners of Sepco Industries, Inc. , a subsidiary of Watermark Designs, LLC., pleaded guilty on the corporation’s behalf to a New York Environmental Conservation Law prohibiting the unlawful discharge of industrial waste and for repeated failure to file corporate tax returns.
Kings County Supreme Court Justice Alex Jeong took the plea and sentenced the corporation to a conditional discharge; a $2.8 million settlement, including $1.5 million of unpaid corporate taxes, and four years of an extensive compliance, monitoring and remediation plan
“The illegal discharge of this hazardous industrial waste by this company was abhorrent,” said Hynes. “This office has a zero tolerance policy towards environmental offenders and will continue working together with the DEP [city Department of Environmental Protection], the DEC [state Department of Environmental Conservation] and other agencies to investigate, prosecute and punish corporations or individuals who put profits ahead of the health and safety of employees and the public at large.”
In May 2012, the DEP and DEC contacted the District Attorney’s about information they were given by a former employee at Watermark that the company was illegally dumping industrial waste into the New York City sewer system from its Brooklyn manufacturing facility at 350 Dewitt Ave. The company specializes in the design and custom metal plating of bathroom and kitchen fixtures and accessories. During the metal-plating process, waste water containing metals such as Copper, Zinc, Chromium, and Silver is generated.
Proper disposal of the waste water requires a costly, multi-step process, that ensures any solid toxic materials be removed by a regulated waste-hauler. Watermark instead disposed of the industrial waste water, which included the hazardous metals, through a hose inserted in a floor drain.
Based on the information provided by the whistleblower, DEP obtained water samples from sewer manholes at and around the facility. The water samples were laboratory tested and results showed highly elevated levels of metals including but not limited to copper, zinc, chromium, and silver. The investigation also uncovered the company’s tax fraud.
The Environmental Crimes Unit of the District Attorney’s Office was started in 2008. Since its inception, more than 30 corporate and individual defendants have been successfully prosecuted on a diverse range of environmental crimes, such as illegal dumping of hazardous wastes, illegal commercialization of fish and wildlife, and fraudulent pesticide applicators. The sentences have garnered record-setting fines totaling over