Two Hadley men charged in connection with illegal dumping along Connecticut River

Thursday, May 04, 2017

HADLEY — Last year, Selectman Donald Pipczynski said he received a tip that someone had illegally dumped approximately 100 yards of concrete along the Connecticut River.

The Hadley Police Department, state Department of Environmental Protection and state Environmental Police followed up. DEP traced the mystery concrete to a job in downtown Northampton, and alleged that Christopher Baj, of Hadley Concrete Services LLC, was responsible.

The DEP ordered Baj, 42, of Hadley, to clean up the pile, and he did. Now, a year after the incident first made headlines, prosecutors have charged Baj with six environmental offenses.

Baj faces one count of violating a trash treatment facility regulation, one count of polluting commonwealth waters, one count of erecting a nuisance in public waters and three wetlands violations.

He was arraigned Friday in Eastern Hampshire District Court in Belchertown and was released on his own recognizance. Northwestern Assistant District Attorney Andrew Covington is handling the case.

Matthew Olszewski, 32, of Hadley, was also arraigned Friday. He faces the same charges as Baj. State records show Olszewski is the manager of Four Seasons Property Maintenance LLC in Hadley.

The Department of Environmental Protection and the Environmental Police are separate entities. Catherine Skiba, spokeswoman for DEP, said Baj complied with the order to clean up the concrete and is in compliance with a long-term restoration plan.

She said the DEP has not issued any citations to Olszewski, but said future action is possible.

Baj declined to comment Monday, directing questions to his attorney Mark T. Brennan of Pittsfield. Olszewski did not return a phone call, though his attorney, Philip Ciccarelli, of Amherst, said of his client: “We’re confident that at the conclusion of this case that he’ll be cleared of any criminal wrongdoing.”

Brennan said he would “vigorously” defend Baj against the allegations.

“He’s already paid out of his own pocket to pick up the concrete,” Brennan said.

Brennan said Baj paid upwards of $6,000 to clean up the mess, even though Brennan maintained Baj was not responsible for any of the dumping.

“He did not dump any concrete,” he said.

Brennan also criticized how authorities are handling the incident, saying they should have stopped pursuing the matter legally after the concrete was cleaned up.

He said the prosecution is damaging to Baj’s and Olszewski’s businesses.

“Are they trying to put two hard-working companies out of business or what?” he asked. “I don’t know what the end result is.”

He also said the same land has been the home of other dumping incidents over the years.

The next court appearance for Baj and Olszewski is scheduled for June 30.

Jack Suntrup can be reached at jsuntrup@gazettenet.com.