Skip to comments.Man Serves Hard Time for Cleaning Dump
Posted on 06/18/2003 7:27:26 PM PDT by microgood
(Editor's Note: The following is the 72nd of 100 stories regarding government regulation from the book Shattered Dreams, written by the National Center for Public Policy Research. CNSNews.com will publish an additional story each day.)
The day after Thanksgiving in 1990, John Pozsgai began serving a three-year prison sentence in Pennsylvania's Allenwood Federal Prison. He wasn't convicted of burglary, armed robbery or a violent crime like murder or assault. Pozsgai was serving hard time because he violated the Clean Water Act.
Pozsgai is a first-generation immigrant who escaped communist Eastern Europe during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and settled in Morrisville, Pa., near Trenton, N.J., where he and his wife raised a family.
An illegal dump full of tires, cars and scrap metal, among other objects, lay adjacent to the Pozsgai residence. The dump also contained a storm water drainage system and a stormwater drainage ditch dating to 1936. The township of Morrisville was responsible for maintaining the ditch. It did not meet its responsibilities. As a result, the approximately 1,000 tires left in the ditch caused local flooding, including on the adjacent road and in the Pozsgai home, every year for 20 years.
Here's what happened next, according to testimony by Pozsgai's daughter, Victoria Pozsgai-Khoury, to the U.S. House Committee on Government Reform in 2000:
"On August 21, 1986, my father signed an agreement of sale and obtained title insurance for the dump across our street. He wanted to build a 12,500-square-foot building that would expand his business and enhance the community. At the very least, an ugly eyesore of a dump would be cleaned up. He removed well over 5,000 tires from this dump, approximately 1,000 of which were blocking the stormwater drainage ditch. However, within months of acquiring this property, notices were sent to my father from the Army Corps of Engineers informing him of the presence of wetlands. These supposed wetlands stemmed from a 'stream' that was connected to 'navigable waters of the United States.'
"Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee, a 'stream' never ran through our newly acquired dump. From the beginning, it was a stormwater drainage ditch that was installed by the Township of Morrisville in 1936. We repeatedly told this to the Army Corps of Engineers, yet they never believed us. It was only in this past year that the Township of Morrisville recognized their responsibility for the upkeep of this stormwater drainage ditch. And then, the Township only did so after we presented it with irrefutable evidence that it had acquired the property on which the ditch lay in 1962.
"Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee, my father is the type of man who will tell you straight to your face that he doesn't like you. That may not be politically correct in today's society, but it's honest. That is because he's honest. So, when people came to our property and trespassed on it, he told them in no uncertain terms to leave. He believed that America was still a country where a man's property was his own, and the government needed a warrant before it attempted to collect evidence to use against a citizen.
"My father is also a man who always believed in complying with the law. He never meant to violate it. But when he started receiving notices, he did not fully understand some of them. Some of the notices were forwarded to our lawyer, who never told us about them. (Our lawyer was reprimanded later for drunkenness in court.) Many of them actually referred to a completely different piece of property, with another tax parcel number. And a few my father flat-out ignored because he was totally convinced there was a mix-up between the pieces of property being cited.
"Remember, this was an illegal dump for approximately 30 years. People had deposited fill, cars and tires all over it. He never, in his wildest imaginations, thought that he would be cited for wetlands violations for cleaning up his property and adding clean fill to this dump.
"In 1987, my father was informed by the Army Corps that he was being civilly sued to restore the property to its previous condition. It's important to understand that the Army Corps wanted him to reestablish the damming effect that approximately 1,000 tires had in the stormwater drainage ditch. In effect, they were telling him to re-dam his property that had been an illegal dump for over 30 years.
"When he was told by Army Corps that he needed a permit to build his truck repair shop, he obtained a water quality permit from Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Resources. He did this, even though he was told by the Department of Environmental Resources that his new property, the dump, was not on the National Wetlands Inventory.
"Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee, at every point along the way, my father kept asking, 'How can we make this work?' When he was told by the Army Corps that he must do 'mitigation' to build on his property, he thought he was being asked for a bribe. He went to the FBI to report it. He never fully understood what he was doing wrong, yet Army Corps sued him. Concurrently, Army Corps referred his case to the Environmental Protection Agency, who then referred it to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution. And, at the same time he was being sued, the Army Corps was continually asking for more information to process his permit.
"Talk about a Catch-22.
"He was arrested. His house was searched for weapons by two federal EPA officers. Our family owns no weapons besides the knives we use in our kitchen. We are still trying to figure out why our house was searched. Our family had little to no money for a lawyer, as my father had invested most of it in the dump across the street from our home.
"Because of Army Corps' actions, my father was civilly sued and had a judgment laid against him. My father was sentenced to three years in prison and a $202,000 fine.
"The effect this had upon my family was absolutely devastating. In the end, my father was imprisoned for a year and a half, lived in a halfway house for a year and a half, and was given five years of supervised probation. My family was forced to declare bankruptcy. Our family was unable to pay the property taxes on our dump. Subsequently, the judge lowered his fine to $5,000. I lost my job as a journalist after my editor explained to me that my father's name was too visible in the news. But the thing that hurt the very most was scheduling my own wedding between trials and appeals.
"At the time my father was sentenced, he was the 'worst environmental violator' in the history of the United States. No one had gone to prison for the Exxon Valdez disaster. No one went to prison when EPA noted 22,348 pounds of toxic TRI chemicals were released into the water in Essex, N.J. But John Pozsgai went to prison for Clean Water Act violations on 14 acres of an illegal dump in Morrisville, Pa."
Pozsgai's daughter, Victoria Khoury, is seeking a presidential pardon for her father. Pozsgai's troubles, however, have yet to end. In 2002, three environmental organizations went to federal court asking for the right to take Pozsgai to court to force him to "restore" the site. As the Philadelphia Inquirer put it in a March 2002 article, these groups believe "the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Attorney's Office have not been tough enough" on Pozsgai.
Sources: Testimony of Victoria Khoury before the House Committee on Government Reform.
Copyright 2003, National Center for Public Policy Research
I would be in jail for killing a few of those lousy, busybody #@$%@#$#&**@.
This is what happens when you give power to Liberals. They are usually corrupt and abuse their power. They are mostly evil. They were just dying to prosecute this guy. Sounds like to me.
One reason Bush needs to appoint conservative judges to the courts. Get these a**hole Liberals out.
Let me know if you wish to be added or removed from this list.
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