2003-12-19 / Front Page

Call-A-Head Under Investigation

Company Says Search Is Part of An Ongoing Attack
By Brian Magoolaghan
Call-A-Head Under Investigation Company Says Search Is Part of An Ongoing Attack By Brian Magoolaghan


Field operations personnel from the Department of Environmental Protection prepare to suction water from the sewer in front of Call-A-Head on Tuesday.Field operations personnel from the Department of Environmental Protection prepare to suction water from the sewer in front of Call-A-Head on Tuesday.

City Investigators and field operations specialists from the Department of Environmental Protection raided Call-A-Head this week looking for evidence that the Broad Channel based portable toilet company is stealing water and polluting its surroundings.

Well over a dozen investigators, armed with a search warrant, converged at the company’s headquarters, at 304 Cross Bay Boulevard at about 11 a.m. on Tuesday. DEP workers quickly began taking samples, storing them in test tubes and glass jars. Investigators used an acoustic tracing device to locate pipes that run near the company’s headquarters, and suctioned water from the street sewer right in front of the property.

The city’s Department of Investigation, which led the search, would not comment and ordered the DEP to keep quiet. meanwhile, Call-A-Head owner Charlie Howard, said the raid is just the latest in a series of run-ins with "aggressive" city and state agencies.

Howard told The Wave that investigators scrambled in an attempt to uncover a second, illegal, water source. They couldn’t find it because it does not exist, he said.

"Why would a company of this size steal water that costs pennies?" Howard said the day after the raid.

Investigators also want to see if water contaminated by human waste is polluting the land around Call-A-Head, which in­cludes wetlands and National Park Service Property. The company’s practice of rinsing empty toilets has raised concern, but Howard dismisses them, because, he said, the practice is common among portable toilet providers.

According to Howard, no violations were issued as a result of the search. "They’re lost," he said about the DEP and state Department of Environ­mental Conservation, because, he added, they are unfamiliar with regulating companies like his. And Howard suspects that the agencies are following up on complaints filed by other Broad Channel residents with an axe to grind. The Wave has received anonymous letters containing serious allegations against the company.

A past dispute involving the Broad Channel Athletic Field land made him unpopular with a segment of the community, he said. His success – the 38-year-old employs 35 people and owns an eye-catching home with a driveway full of fancy foreign cars – could also be behind his troubles. Howard is leading three building projects, which will be the most expensive in the island community’s history. Talk of a doctor’s office, a Disney-Land-like pharmacy and a Venetian-styled cafe make some residents worry about the future look of their neighborhood, while other’s muse that its name will soon be "Charlie’s Channel."


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