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Scrap Metal Company Fined for Polluting Gowanus Canal

By Leslie Albrecht | December 5, 2012 6:47pm

GOWANUS — A scrap metal company that repeatedly let metal fall into the polluted Gowanus Canal has been fined $85,000, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced Tuesday.

Benson Scrap Metal paid the penalty after investigators discovered employees were letting metal drop into the canal. The scrap yard, perched on the edge of the canal at 543 Smith St., uses claw-like cranes to lift piles of scrap metal onto barges bound for a New Jersey recycling facility.

After locals complained that Benson's scrap metal was frequently ending up in the canal instead of on the barges, investigators from the state Department of Environmental Conservation kept tabs on the operation. They found that employees let metallic waste land in the canal more than 100 times over a 14-month period.

As a result, the Attorney General's office requested a preliminary injunction in State Supreme Court barring Benson and Simsmetal East, the firm that provides the barges, from letting metal fall into the canal.

Benson agreed to improve its operations, and investigators who continued to monitor the company found that Benson followed through on the deal. Simsmetal also agreed to comply, not just at the Gowanus Canal, but in waters throughout the New York City area.

"The days when the Gowanus Canal could be treated as a dumping ground are over," Schneiderman said in a written statement. "Allowing scrap metal to fall into the canal is unacceptable and a violation of state law. The agreements our office reached with both Benson Metal Corp and Simsmetal East LLC represent a significant step forward in reclaiming the Gowanus Canal as an environmental asset for all New Yorkers."

Representatives from Benson and Simsmetal could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Gowanus Canal was designated a Superfund site in need of a massive clean-up in 2010. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is expected to release its plan for cleaning the contaminated canal within weeks, according to local blog Pardon Me For Asking.