The owner of an Elmont gas station is accused of environmental crimes for allegedly ignoring orders from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to repair a damaged underground tank found to be leaking petroleum into the soil and groundwater.
Nejdet Yetim, 45, of Patchogue, the owner of the Liberty gas station on Hempstead Turnpike, was arrested Thursday morning and charged with endangering public health, safety or the environment and knowingly violating a final administrative order. He will be arraigned Thursday at First District Court in Hempstead on Thursday. He faces up to four years in prison if he is found guilty.
Yetim was notified by a contractor that the underground tank had failed a tightness test in December 2005 and as is required by law, the contractor notified the DEC, Nassau prosecutors said. The extent of the damage, including a 5” by 8” hole, was discovered by a second contractor in April 2006 and at that time, the DEC ordered Yetim to replace the tank as well as perform a soil and groundwater investigation in the area around the tank.
Yetim ignored these orders, as well as another order to replace the tank in October 2007, prosecutors said. Investigators estimate that between December 2005 and April 2006 alone, more than 200 gallons of gasoline may have leaked into the soil and groundwater around the tank.
A search warrant executed on August 20 of this year revealed the presence of petroleum in soil and groundwater samples taken from around the tank, prosecutors said. The tank was taken out of operation in April 2009, according to the DEC, but the station is still operating.
According to the DEC, there is no imminent threat to the groundwater surrounding the leaking tank, though the area must be cleaned up.
“For this defendant to place profit above the health of his surrounding community is beyond despicable,” Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said in a statement. “My office will continue to aggressively prosecute any individual who endangers the health and environment of Nassau County.”
Yetim’s attorney, Eric Naiburg, said his client “has substantial roots in this community and shouldn’t be behind bars.”