Cleanup company head pleads not guilty in Fairfield dumping case

Police say cleanup company used contaminated fill to construct this berm in Fairfield.

Police say cleanup company used contaminated fill to construct this berm in Fairfield.

Genevieve Reilly / Hearst Connecticut Media

BRIDGEPORT — The owner of a Clinton environmental cleanup company accused of costing Fairfield taxpayers millions of dollars for his failed cleanup of a dumping site on town property pleaded not guilty Thursday to illegal dumping charges.

Robert Grabarek, president of Osprey Environmental Engineering, pleaded not guilty before Superior Court Judge Tracy Lee Dayton to two counts of violating state environmental regulations and one count of conspiracy — all felonies.

He asked for a jury trial.

Judge Dayton then continued the case to March 12.

Senior Assistant State’s Attorney Tamberlyn Chapman declined comment. Neither Grabarek nor his lawyer, Jeremiah Donovan, would comment as they left the Golden Hill Street courthouse.

The town of Fairfield is currently suing Grabarek in Superior Court here. Town Attorney James Baldwin said the town hired Osprey and Grabarek to come up with a plan approved by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to cap the dump site near the town’s public works garage to prevent contaminated materials from leaking into the air and water.

But he said Osprey and Grabarek didn’t get DEEP approval and instead created a barrier on the site that contains contaminated material.

“Osprey said it was OK to go ahead to proceed to create the berm and now it is going to cost millions of dollars for remediation,” Baldwin said.

He estimated the damage caused by Osprey and Grabarek will cost the town up to $5 million.

Four former senior Fairfield town officials — Scott Bartlett, former Fairfield Public Works superintendent; Joseph Michelangelo, former director of public works; Brian Carey, the interim public works director and town conservation director; and Emmet Hibson, the town’s former human resources director — pleaded not guilty earlier this week to conspiring to illegally dispose of hundreds of yards of highly-contaminated soil on town property. Bartlett is also facing bribery charges.

In 2013, Julian Development was hired by the town to manage a pile of debris next to the public works garage with the prohibition that he was to accept no contaminated material there and was to eventually clean out the site.

But over the next three years, the site went from 40,000 cubic yards of material to approximately 120,000 cubic yards covering nearly three acres. Subsequent tests found the pile contained high levels of PCBs, lead and other hazardous materials, according to court documents.

The town was ordered by DEEP to clean up the site.

In 2016, the town hired Grabarek, who already was under investigation for alleged environmental wrongdoing, to do the cleanup and build a berm of clean soil around the site to prevent contaminates from spreading to neighboring properties and waterways, the documents state.

“Grabarek, in his capacity as a licensed environmental professional, together with town officials, conspired to bury contaminated materials into the berm, including soils containing PCBs in concentrations greater than (allowed) and then continued to conceal the act of doing so,” his arrest warrant affidavits state.