Maziarz, others say DEC needs to hear area's opposition
by Terry Duffy
Friday morning, before a scenic backdrop of the Youngstown waterfront at Falkner Park, members of Residents for Responsible Government teamed up with a bipartisan element of the area's elected officials to discuss a not-so-attractive scenario - the potential for continued hazardous waste landfilling operations in northern Niagara, and to vent their opposition.
As most residents are already likely aware, CWM Chemical Services has had a long-standing application in process with the state Department of Environmental Conservation for expansion of its 700-plus acre operations on Balmer Road in the Town of Porter. Included is request to construct a 44-acre Residuals Management Unit 2 hazardous waste landfill that would replace a CWM's RMU-1 operation, which is near its airspace capacity, plus a host of facility improvements at the CWM site.
As per state Environmental Conservation Law, an eight-member Facility Siting Board has been formed to review the application, review public comment and ultimately make a decision to grant the CWM application a Certificate of Environmental Safety and Public Necessity for the project, deny it, or grant it subject to modifications or condition. (Particulars of the CWM landfill application can be found in detail in the May 10 edition of the Sentinel, Pages 1, 10 and 17, and online at www.wnypapers.com).
The ultimate decision of the Facility Siting Board will have a resounding impact on the future of northern Niagara. The CWM hazardous waste treatment and landfilling operations, while technologically advanced and state-of-the-art, have been for decades and remains to this day, a very controversial issue among significant elements in the Lewiston and Youngstown communities, in Niagara County and beyond. The town and village of Lewiston, the Lewiston-Porter School District, Village of Youngstown, Niagara County Legislature and others have all come out in staunch opposition to the CWM expansion. Resolutions in opposition have been adopted, and Lewiston and Niagara County have gone so far as to commit funding for the hiring of environmental attorney Gary Abraham to fight the measure in the courts, if it goes that far.
DEC has scheduled two public hearings Wednesday, July 16, at the Lewiston-Porter High School auditorium to hear comments, pro and con from the community. Times are 1 and 6:30 p.m., and all comments heard and/or presented will be recorded into the official record.
The importance of the views of the region on the CWM expansion cannot be understated, and on Friday, RRG and the area's elected gathered in Youngstown to reiterate that fact and strongly urge all facets of the community to come out Wednesday and speak out at the DEC Lew-Port sessions.
"This is the most important fight that is coming to our community," said RRG President April Fideli.
"If you have never come out before and taken part in one of our hearings, or done anything, now is the time. This is our most important fight. This is the time to get off your couch, change your plans and come to our hearing. We are not going to get another chance; we are not going to get another hearing. If you do not come out and fight, we are going to get another landfill.
"It is so important that you come out and fight for your rights," said Fideli. "We have high cancer rates, we have high MS rates, we have people with unexplained illnesses in our community, and we also have every single truck that carries hazardous waste driving by our children's school. And we have had this for far, far too long. And enough is enough.
"Come fight with us for this beautiful community," said Fideli. "Come fight ... to stop the expansion of CWM's hazardous waste."
Fideli was joined at the Falkner Park gazebo by State Sen. George Maziarz, Niagara County 2nd District Legislator and Legislature Chair William L. Ross, Town of Lewiston Supervisor Dennis Brochey, Lewiston Town Board members Al Bax and William Conrad, and RRG member Tim Henderson.
"This truly may be our last opportunity to send a message to Albany, to the DEC," said Maziarz. "This hazardous waste siting board, unfortunately (for the most part) is made up of Albany bureaucrats, as opposed to local residents."
Urging residents to attend and voice their concerns, Maziarz said, "The DEC has not been very kind to us in the past. ... We have to be diligent and hold them accountable.
"This is not the place for expansion. We have had enough hazardous waste in this community, and we are going to do all we can to protect. We have to send a message.
"It is vitally important for people to show up at this hearing on July 16," he closed.
Similar comments were echoed by Ross, Conrad, Bax and Brochey and Henderson.
Noting the efforts over the past 10 years by 1st District Niagara County Legislator Clyde Burmaster in opposition to CWM, Ross said, "The County Legislature has always been in the same direction. Whenever a resolution has come up ... whenever money has come up, the County Legislature has voted unanimously.
Noting past opposition to CWM by former county legislator Lee Simonson of Lewiston, who by the way serves as an ad hoc member on the siting board, Ross continued, "When it comes to a vote, they (county legislators) are unanimous. Every vote, on every resolution, whether it's against expansion or for money, has been unanimous."
"We're tired of it (the CWM expansion battle)," said Conrad.
"Our communities are at a crossroads," said Bax. "The reality is that the Town of Lewiston, the Town of Porter, our residents, me personally, our school, we are not longer willing to be the lowest cost option for the chemical waste industry.
"We don't produce toxic waste ... it should be stored and housed somewhere else."
Also urging attendance on Wednesday, Bax said, "... Have your voice heard. Your opinions matter. Please be there side by side with us ..."
"This is a very big event," said Brochey. "... This is all of Niagara County. We have to quit being a dumping ground for all kinds of waste. ... We're on a crossroads here; we are close to a victory. Let's keep on this fight."
"Bring your best fight on July 16," added Fideli.
"The time has come to close CWM," said Henderson. "The business of hazardous waste is not compatible with Gov. Cuomo's economic development plan. ... A region's image cannot be improved by importing hazardous waste from other regions.
"Hosting the only hazardous waste treatment facility in the entire northeast is also in conflict with Niagara County's two main industries, tourism and agriculture."
Noting the Love Canal disaster, Henderson added, "We still have within our ability, the opportunity to protect ourselves from similar disasters.
"Doubling (CWM's) size is unconscionable," he said.
Closing by urging attendance Wednesday, Henderson said, "It well may be the most important hearing in our area's history and future."