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East Boston garage owner fined, ordered to clean up hazardous waste at Belle Isle

Suffolk Superior Court has ordered an East Boston auto ­repair shop owner to pay hefty fines and clean up hazardous waste polluting the Belle Isle Marsh Reservation.

The court fined Manuele Scata, who owns D & M Auto Doctor at 1181 Bennington St., in the Orient Heights section, nearly $180,000 and ordered him to clean up debris and ­petroleum products polluting the reservation, the last salt marsh in the city, which is owned by the Commonwealth and managed by the Department of Conservation and ­Recreation.

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The owner said he has tried to comply with the state, but cannot afford the costs. He signed consent orders with the state Department of Environmental Protection agreeing to remove petroleum contamination in 2005 and again in 2006, but made no substantial effort to do so, Attor­ney General ­Martha ­Coakley said.

“By failing to meet his commitments to the MassDEP time and again, the property owner has put the public at serious risk due to the contamination on his property,” Coakley said. “We are pleased that the court has officially ordered him to eliminate the contamination that is impacting this valuable natural resource.”

In a phone interview, Scata, 40, said he is not responsible for gasoline in the soil or debris dumped behind his repair shop. Scata, who has owned the property since 2000, said fuel was allowed to leach into the soil when the site was a gas station in the 1980s, two owners prior to him.

The area in back of the shop, he said, has been a dumping ground for 50 years or more. He regularly comes to work in the morning to find an unwanted sofa or refrigerator deposited there, he said.

“I’m being blamed for ground contamination that I didn’t cause,” Scata said. He said he took ownership of the property unaware of the pollution.

Under state law, a property owner is responsible for clean-up even if he or she did not own the property at the time of the release and had no role in it.

Scata said he has tried to work with MassDEP but cannot afford the cleanup required or a lengthy court battle.

“At this time, business is not good,” he said. “I can’t afford attorneys to fight them. It basically comes down to David and Goliath.” Scata said he planned to appeal the ruling.

A spokeswoman for the ­attorney general declined to comment on Scata’s assertions. MassDEP spokesman Joe ­Ferson said the agency preferred not to relitigate the case in the news media.

The court’s judgment, issued Nov. 15, ordered Scata to pay $170,000 in civil penalties and nearly $10,000 in court costs and fees.

Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremycfox@gmail.com
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