Cited in Sewage Flow

Multiple charges as yacht leaks waste into lake

A man whose yacht was found discharging waste into Lake Montauk late last month is facing a number of charges brought by federal, state, and local authorities.

Charles Vaccaro of Sunny Isles Beach, Fla., was wanted in Florida at the time for theft of government services, though that matter has since been cleared up.

An anonymous tipster alerted East Hampton Town Marine Patrol officers that a yacht at Gurney’s Montauk Yacht Club was illegally discharging sewage into the water.

Two people were living aboard the 74-foot yacht, the C-Weed, which was docked at the yacht club for about three weeks, Chief Harbormaster Ed Michels said. It was pumped out when the boat left Port Washington three weeks earlier, but not since, he said. The tanks were full and overflowed into Lake Montauk. 

“You could certainly smell it,” Chief Michels said.

Mr. Vaccaro, the president and co-founder of Velez Capital Management in Port Washington, who has a house in Montauk, was not living aboard, but was issued tickets because it was his boat, Chief Michels said. The harbormaster’s office tried on several occasions to get Mr. Vaccaro to assist them in the situation, but he did not immediately respond.

Chief Michels called in the State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Coast Guard to assist. The Coast Guard boarded the boat on July 26 for an inspection.

The Italian-made 2001 yacht, which Mr. Vaccaro recently purchased, has four heads, Chief Michels said, adding that no one on board knew how to use the pumpout system. Ultimately, the yacht club had to shut off the power being supplied to the boat. The chief said the club owner and staff were “very cooperative.”

Coast Guard Petty Officer Ryan O’Hare, second in command at Coast Guard Station Montauk, said the boarding officer could see the discharge coming from the boat. Even so, a dye test on the vessel’s toilets was conducted. Officials said it confirmed that sewage from the C-Weed was entering Lake Montauk.

D.E.C. officers issued three misdemeanor tickets, for discharge of sewage in a no-discharge zone, which carries up to a $1,000 fine, for discharging without a New York State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit, and for pollution of waters of a marine district. The latter two carry fines of $3,750 to $37,500 and/or up to one year in jail per day of the violation.

For the federal charges, the Coast Guard cited Mr. Vaccaro for not having closed a valve that would have prevented the sewage from discharging into the water once the tanks were full, and for discharging in a no-discharge zone. A hearing office in Virginia will make a determination with regard to prosecution, Officer O’Hare said.

He described the charges as very serious. “It’s not going to go unanswered by the Coast Guard,” he said. “The Coast Guard will, one way or another, take action.” The Town of East Hampton cited Mr. Vaccaro for violation of a town ordinance.

“Protection of our natural resources, including water quality, is a top priority,” Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said. “All harbors in the town are designated no-discharge zones, where waste must be contained and properly pumped out in order to prevent pollution.”

While running Mr. Vaccaro’s license, environmental conservation officers discovered an outstanding warrant in Florida on the theft of government services charge. The warrant, related to taxes in Florida, has been cleared and dismissed, according to Mr. Vaccaro’s Sag Harbor attorney, Edward Burke Jr.

The yacht owner was taken into custody on July 27 and arraigned on the D.E.C. charges on July 30 in East Hampton Town Justice Court.

“We will vigorously defend Mr. Vaccaro and clear his name from these charges,” Mr. Burke said in a statement.

Mr. Vaccaro is due back in Justice Court today.