by Terry Duffy
In a show of ongoing opposition in the area, the Niagara County Legislature on Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution against CWM Chemical Services LLC and its proposal to build a new hazardous waste Residuals Management Unit-2 landfill at its Town of Porter facility.
The action comes just a week after the state Department of Environmental Conservation announced its public hearings to be held at the Lewiston-Porter High School auditorium on Wednesday, July 16. Sessions will take place at 1 and 6:30 p.m. that day on the Lew-Port Creek Road campus located within a few miles of the CWM facility.
According to the area's environmental watchdog, Residents for Responsible Government, the legislature's resolution represents the latest in what has now become a years-long battle against CWM and the company's intents on maintaining its presence in northern Niagara for years into the future.
CWM's RMU-1 landfill, the only one of its kind in New York state and one of a few nationally that accepts hazardous waste shipments from throughout the eastern U.S., Canada and the Caribbean, is fast nearing its airspace capacity and now has months of operation remaining. The company's presence in northern Niagara has become a thorn in the side to thousands of area residents and to communities throughout the county, including Lewiston and Youngstown, who have gone on record in opposition to its existence.
Tuesday's actions by the legislature represent just the latest example. And one who couldn't be happier is First District County Legislature Clyde Burmaster of Ransomville, whose district is home to CWM and who has become one of its most vocal opponents.
RRG notes that for a decade, the county has been funding environmental attorney Gary A. Abraham of Allegany to prepare opposition to the expansion. However, local activists have increasingly questioned the sincerity of the Republican-led majority's opposition to the project.
State Board of Elections figures show CWM has given $76,300 to the Niagara County and Porter Republican committees since 2007, according to RRG.
"I appreciate everybody's vote here tonight," said Burmaster, author of the resolution that urges the state siting board not to grant CWM's permit request.
The legislature's latest statement also drew praise from RRG members.
"It is time for us once and for all to reclaim our community," commented RRG member Tim Henderson of Lewiston. "We have been denied our basic right to live in peace, health and safety for far too long. The DEC has stated that there is no need for an expansion, and it is certainly not in the public interest to bury another 8 million tons of poisons less than a mile from our school.
"Simply put, this is it. The final round. Our last chance to put an end to the madness of the last 30 years that goes along with being the world's dump. We, as a community are so much better than that. There will always be jobs at CWM, maintaining the site after closure, but to give them a permit to double their size and destroy another 40 acres of land forever is unthinkable and goes against any ideas of environmental justice."
RRG President April Fideli shares that sentiment and urges the community to rally its opposition to DEC once again in what the group hopes is the final determining round. RRG has put out the call for area residents to "Reclaim Our Community" and turn out in force and stanchly express their views in opposition to DEC officials next month.
Residents will have an opportunity that comes around only every 25 years - to end toxic waste dumping in the region said RRG. It cited three important reasons for residents to attend:
•The outcome of the CWM application will determine whether or not Lewiston and Porter would host one of the last toxic waste dumps in the United States, with associated fires, leaks, spills and exposure to the community for the next 30 years.
•CWM has requested lagoons situated between Creek and Porter Center roads, big enough to store 140 million gallons of toxic wastewater. The chemicals in the lagoons evaporate into our air with leftovers then dumped into the Niagara River.
•The proposal would allow upward of 20,000 tractor-trailers to haul toxic waste through Buffalo, Niagara Falls, and past all Lewiston-Porter public schools to CWM.
Fideli noted, "A national toxic waste dump at CWM is not in the public interest because of adverse health and economic risks. The governor needs to hear from all of us."
Henderson added, "After 40 years of damage to our community, it's time to 'ROC' the high school auditorium loud enough so Gov. Cuomo can hear us in Albany. We need everyone in the community to be a ROC star on July 16."
For those who cannot attend the 6:30 p.m. session, a 1 p.m. hearing will also be available for public comment or attendance earlier in that day.
And, residents are also able to submit written comments on CWM's application anytime between now and Sept. 5 to DEC. Comments can be sent to: James T. McClymonds, Chief Administrative Law Judge, NYSDEC Officer of Hearings and Mediation Services, 625 Broadway, First Floor, Albany, NY 12233-1550, or via email to [email protected].