Rogers business guilty in dumping oil, waste into wetland

Hennepin County environmental regulators and the county attorney’s office continue to build cases against businesses that ignore pollution laws and contaminate the waters in Hennepin County.

The most recent case involved a Rogers automobile sales and service business which dumped oil and other industrial waste into a wetland adjacent to the company. The water from that wetland drains into a six-acre lake.

John Jeffrey Cartalucca, 53, of Maple Grove pleaded guilty in April to a single count of unlawful discharge of industrial waste and two other counts of water pollution were dismissed as part of his plea. He was ordered to pay fines and restitution of $4,466.

“These water pollution laws are some of the most effective environmental laws ever passed, restoring our once dirty waters to a condition where they can support fish and wildlife and provide recreation for people,” Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said. “When people and businesses violate those laws, especially when they do it to save themselves some money, we are going to charge them with criminal offenses and show them we are serious about our environmental laws.”

According to the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office criminal complaint, Cartalucca is the owner of Freeway Motors at 14080 Main Street in Rogers. The company sells used cars and does auto repair and detailing. Cartalucca also rented space in the same building to two other companies that also did car work. At the time of the violations, waste water from the businesses in the building drained to an oil/water separator and then into a septic system.

However, in April 2011, a former Freeway Motors employee told officials of the Hennepin County Environmental  Services Department that the oil/separator frequently backs up, triggering an alarm. Company employees would then pump the waste water onto the parking lot, where it would drain into the adjacent wetlands, according to the complaint. The former employee estimated 165 gallons a day were dumped into the parking lot.

Hennepin County environmental services inspectors went to Freeway Motors and observed the waste being pumped out of the building. They took samples and talked to employees who told them that Cartalucca had told them to dump the wastewater outside when the system backed up, according to the complaint. The test results found that the liquid draining into the wetland exceeded the pollution limits for oil and grease, aluminum, zinc, copper, toluene and chloride.

In a meeting with county officials, Cartalucca admitted he had ordered employees to dump the waste water outside when the system backed up. The city of Rogers had offered him the opportunity to hook up to the city’s sewer system, eliminating the problem, but he had delayed hooking up because of the expense, according to the complaint.

The building is now connected to the city sewer system.

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