State Settled Lawsuit Over Orleans Salt Contamination In 2011

Date: March 11, 2016

TOWN OF ORLEANS, NY (WWNY)- While it’s just a vacant building now, in 1990, Carol and Barbara Wootton opened the businesses Northern Satellite and Hook, Line, and Sinker in the town of Orleans.

But in the early 2000s, Carol was diagnosed with ALS, and his daughter, Debbie, and her mother decided to close up shop.

“After he passed, she decided she wanted to sell the property. In the process of selling it, that’s when they discovered that both wells were contaminated with salt,” said Debbie Gibson.

Debbie and her mother blamed the state Department of Transportation salt barn across the street on Route 12.

They filed a lawsuit against the state in 2006.

In 2008, they had a surveying study showing groundwater from the DOT barn was passing through the gas station next door, into the Wootton’s property.

But time wasn’t on their side.

“My mother was aging. We finally had a date for the deposition and they had the meeting. She testified. They reviewed the information and the state decided to settle with her,” said Gibson.

The two sides settled for $18,000 in 2011.

But one of the stipulations was the state didn’t admit to any wrongdoing and that the case can’t be used against the state in the future.

Gibson’s mother passed away a year after her settlement with the state.

Even though the state didn’t take responsibility for the salt contamination problem at the property, Gibson, like many others from the town of Orleans, still point to the state DOT salt barn as the cause.

“I really don’t know why they settled. I think they know that they’re guilty. The sand that the salt was mixed in with sat there uncovered for years and just leached into the ground water for year. Why they settled, I don’t know,” said Gibson.

When asked about the settlement, the DOT and Attorney General’s Office had nothing to say.