by Terry Duffy
With the 2012 elections now history, members of the Lake Ontario Ordinance Works Community Action Council met this week to begin the strategy process toward approaching area members of Congress. Their goal is to enlighten the area's Congressional representatives, including one newly elected member, on the concerns affecting the Niagara Falls Storage Site at LOOW in Lewiston - namely the Interim Waste Containment Structure and its future.
"Once the (U.S. Army Corps) feasibility study is done, we need to engage, build a greater consensus with our federal representatives, the multiple agencies," said Joseph A. Gardella Jr., John and Frances Larkin professor of chemistry at the University at Buffalo, and co-chair of the LOOW CAC.
Gardella told CAC executive committee members they need to be proactive when approaching the area's federal elected officials on this issue. They include newly-elected member of Congress Chris Collins of the 27th District, where the LOOW site is located; Rep. Brian Higgins of the 26th District in Buffalo-Niagara Falls; Rep. Tom Reed of the 23rd District that encompasses the state's southern tier; and Rep. Louise Slaughter of the 25th District, who formerly represented northern Niagara County. "We need to impress on them that this site (NFSS) is a federal responsibility; it's a legacy responsibility," said Gardella. "We need to work collectively to get action."
What Gardella was referring to is efforts aimed at enlightening the local Congressional members to gain greater insight on the IWCS, a highly radioactive, temporary containment cell at the NFSS that is currently to the point of a feasibility study by the Corps to determine its future. Months along in progress, the Corps' study, expected to be complete in 2014 or 2015, will ultimately determine a plan for the IWCS' future, one that could range from having the site remain status quo to having it undergo a massive cleanup remediation, which could conceivably cost more than $1.4 billion.
Problem is, Corps' funding for IWCS's future is limited to the feasibility study only, and significant government funding, namely an act of Congress, would need to be pursued for any future cleanup to occur. And given the nation's tough economic situation, that appears to be a challenge.
Still Gardella conveyed the need for CAC members to pursue the representatives to begin the process. "We need to approach them, get this started," he said.
Gardella advised the members that a number of resources are available, as he showed attendees how a briefing book prepared for elected officials that is district-specific on local environmental issues could be one such tool. Another would be utilizing the input of Rep. Slaughter, high ranking Rules Committee member in Congress, who formerly represented Niagara County, in the engaging process.
The session was left with the executive committee members advised by Gardella to consider beginning the formation of individual teams whose purpose will be to approach the local offices of federal representatives and gain their interest and their consensus for future action. "We have a lot of legwork ahead of us to do," said Gardella.
It was announced that night that the LOOW CAC would meet again on Tuesday, Dec. 4, in the Lewiston-Porter Community Resource Center Board Room to discuss its plans further. The session is open to the public and area residents are invited to attend.