Apr 4, 2019 | Save Craryville letter submitted to the Copake Planning Board – Attorney, David K. Gordon

David K. Gordon

Attorney and Counselor at Law

42 Catharine Street, Suite C-106

Poughkeepsie, NY 12601

April 4, 2019

Hon. Robert Haight, Chairman Town of Copake Planning Board

230 Mountain View Road
Copake, New York 12516


Dear Mr. Haight and Members of the Planning Board:

We write to further comment on the above captioned site plan proposal before the Planning Board, specifically as to the project’s potential to contaminate surrounding air and water.

Save Craryville is submitting comments to the Planning Board today documenting the proposed gas station’s potential to contaminate surface water and groundwater. As detailed in the separate comment to the Board by hydrogeologist Paul Rubin of HydroQuest, the sensitivity of the project site – above an unconfined aquifer and buried stream and upstream from protected wetlands – requires denial of the site plan application.

Moreover, new research on air emissions from gas stations indicates that they release petroleum constitutents into the air in sufficient quantities to violate state health criteria, where as here, the proposed location is in close proximity to homes and businesses. Accordingly, the Planning Board’s should deny the GRJH application.

The proposed gas station site is over a sensitive aquifer and upstream from sensitive wetlands and streams.

The proposed project site sits atop a major sand and gravel aquifer, which is clearly shown in Figure 6 of the Town of Copake Water Resource Summary. [1] The aquifer is a valuable groundwater source for the community.

The aquifer is “unconfined,” meaning surface water percolates directly down to it, with no protective confining layer. The United States Geological Survey explains:

The risk of contamination is greater for unconfined (water-table) aquifers than for confined aquifers because they usually are nearer to land surface and lack an overlying confining layer to impede the movement of contaminants. [2]


[1] Town of Copake Water Resource Summary at 25: http://townofcopake.org/site/wp- content/uploads/2013/10/Water-Resources-Summary_Copake_final.pdf

[2] USGS Water Science School: https://water.usgs.gov/edu/earthgwquality.html


Mr. Rubin reports that components of the gasoline, diesel fuel and oil present at a gas station are soluble and would travel through groundwater. Further, the proposed septic system is designed to discharge partially-treated wastewater to the ground. If these contaminants enter the groundwater, they will flow relatively quickly through the aquifer toward nearby streams and wetlands.

The Comprehensive Plan directs the town to “[p]romote compatible land uses over existing aquifer areas to minimize potential sources of contamination...” [3] Gas stations, designated “hotspots” for water pollution by New York State, [4] do not comply with this requirement.

The Water Resource Summary, prepared for the Town by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, reiterates the warning against siting potentially polluting uses over aquifers:

Certain land uses are inappropriate in areas that have been identified as important to a community’s drinking water supply. Towns should seek to site land uses that are potentially harmful to groundwater supplies in the least sensitive areas. Development choices along the Roeliff Jansen Kill, Taghkanic Creek, and other streams should reflect the potential sensitivity of the aquifer. [5]

The applicant’s Environmental Assessment Form misled the town regarding the existence of the aquifer. Citing the New York State Water Resource Summary prepared for Copake, it asserted that “the site is not located over a mapped aquifer.” But that statement is wrong; the town’s Water Resource Summary clearly indicates that the site is squarely above a mapped aquifer. Because of this misinformation, the ZBA and the Planning Board have never analyzed the potential groundwater impacts from the project.

Additionally, as reported by Bart Clark, PE in comments submitted to the Board, the proposed septic system is in an area with poor soil drainage, essentially a small wetland. The septic incompatibility of the site adds to the potential for the proposed gas station to contaminate the aquifer.

Whether through groundwater flow or stormwater flow to the culvert under Route 23, contaminants from the proposed gas station could enter the large wetland complex south of Route 23, which feeds the Taghkanic Creek. The Taghkanic Creek has been designated by New York State as a high quality trout stream.[6] As Mr. Rubin opines in his letter, the site is too environmentally sensitive for a facility presenting significant risks of contamination.


[3] Town of Copake Comprehensive Plan § VI(C)(3)(h).
[4] New York State Stormwater Management Design Manual § 4.11.

[5] Town of Copake Water Resource Summary, supra, at 22.

[6] New York State Waterbody Inventory, https://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/water_pdf/wilhudsclaverack.pdf


The project threatens to contaminate the air in Craryville with unsafe levels of volatile petroleum compounds.

It is both intuitive and well known that the transfer of gasoline from underground tanks to private automobiles can lead to discharges of hydrocarbons and other petroleum chemicals to the air. Many of the constituents of gasoline are volatile, so that they readily evaporate upon exposure to the air, which commonly occurs through spills or simply exposure during the pumping process. Petroleum odors at these facilities are readily apparent.

Recent research has indicated that gas stations can emit petroleum constituents in sufficient quantities to infringe on public health.

At gas stations, fuel is stored and transferred between tanker trucks, storage tanks, and vehicle tanks. During both storage and transfer, a small fraction of unburned fuel is typically released to the environment unless pollution prevention technology is used. While the fraction may be small, the cumulative release can be substantial because of the large quantities of fuel sold. The cumulative release of unburned fuel is a public health concern because gas stations are widely distributed in residential areas and because fuel contains toxic and carcinogenic chemicals. [7]

A number of studies have reviewed the extent of hydrocarbon, particularly benzene, contamination of the air at various distances from gas stations. In many cases, these concentrations exceed the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (“DEC”) health guidelines for chronic exposure to benzene (C6H6) in nearby homes and businesses. The operative DEC health standard is 0.13 micrograms per cubic meter (μg/m3) of air (about 0.41 parts per billion or ppb). [8] Among other things, the studies have found the following:

  • A Canadian petroleum industry study found average benzene concentrations of 146 and 461 ppb at the gas station property boundary in summer and winter, respectively. [9]

  • A South Korean study examined outdoor and indoor benzene concentrations at numerous residences within 30 m and between 60 and 100 m of gas stations and found median outdoor benzene concentrations of 9.9 and 66.0 μg/m3 (about 3.1 and 1.9 ppb), respectively. Median indoor concentrations at these locations were higher, reaching 13.1 and 16.5 μg/m3 (about 4.1 and 5.2 ppb), respectively. [10]

  • Another study found median ambient benzene levels of 1.9 ppb in houses both less than 50 and greater than 100 m from a service station. [11]


[7] Hilpert, M., Mora, B.A., Ni, J. et al. Hydrocarbon Release During Fuel Storage and Transfer at Gas Stations: Environmental and Health Effects. Curr Envir Health Rpt (2015) 2: 412. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40572-015-0074-8.

[8] DEC, DAR-1 Guidelines for the Evaluation and Control of Ambient Air Contaminants Under Part 212, August 2016

[9] Akland GG. Exposure of the general population to gasoline. Environmental Health Perspectives. 1993;101 Suppl 6:27–32.

[10] Jo W-K, Moon K-C. Housewives’ exposure to volatile organic compounds relative to proximity to roadside service stations. Atmospheric Environment. 1999;33(18):2921–8.


All of these recorded levels of benzene, a known carcinogen, are an order of magnitude above the DEC guidance concentration for chronic exposure.


In consideration of these unmitigated risks, the Planning Board must deny site plan approval based on the Comprehensive Plan and the statutory criteria in the Town Code. At least five of the required criteria for site plan approval cannot be met:

1. “Compatibility of the site plan with the goals, policies and standards set forth in the Town of Copake Comprehensive Plan.”[12]

The Comprehensive Plan directs the town to “[p]romote compatible land uses over existing aquifer areas to minimize potential sources of contamination...”[13] A gas station is not a compatible land use in a sensitive aquifer area. The Plan also directs the town to “[p]rotect lakes and bodies of water.” [14]\

2. “Pollution of air, streams, wetlands, ponds, lakes, soils and groundwater supplies is avoided to the maximum extent practicable or mitigated.”

As described above, the proposed project presents substantial pollution threats to air, groundwater and surface water (wetlands and streams).

3. “Adequacy of control measures to prevent groundwater or surface water contamination.” [15]

The proposed project leaves groundwater and surface water vulnerable to pollution from miscible hydrocarbons and septic leachate.

4. “The proposed use will not result in reductions in groundwater levels or changes in groundwater quality that limit the ability of a groundwater user to withdraw groundwater.”[16]

If the aquifer becomes polluted, an important groundwater resource would be destroyed. Surrounding property owners could lose the ability to use their drinking water wells.

5. “Compatibility of the development with its surroundings and in accordance with § 232- 1 of this zoning law.”

For all the reasons cited herein, the project is not compatible with its surroundings. In particular, it threatens “air and water pollution.”[17]


[11] Jo W-K, Oh J-W. Exposure to methyl tertiary butyl ether and benzene in close proximity to service stations. Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association. 2001;51(8):1122–8.

[12] Town Code § 232-21(J)(10).

[13] Town of Copake Comprehensive Plan § VI(C)(3)(h).

[14] Town of Copake Comprehensive Plan § VI(C)(3)(b).

[15] Town Code § 232-21(J)(16).

[16] Town Code § 232-21(J)(17).


To date, neither the Planning Board nor the ZBA before it has undertaken the technical analysis necessary to determine the likelihood of contamination from the proposed gas station. Without complete study of the impacts to air, groundwater and surface water, and thorough mitigation of those impacts, the project cannot meet these criteria and must be denied.


David K. Gordon