by Terry Duffy
CWM - the mere mention of it brings far-ranging responses from the community.
What do you think? The Lewiston-Porter Sentinel would like to know.
By now, most are likely aware CWM, also known as CWM Chemical Services, a Waste Management company, is in the process of seeking a new expansion/operating permit from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. If approved, it would allow CWM to embark on a $55 million privately funded expansion for creation of a new Residuals Management Unit 2 hazardous waste landfill on 44 of its 715 acres, and allow it to continue operations in northern Niagara County in the coming decades.
For some, this scenario brings with it a sense of dread, of giving CWM a new lease on life, one that would mean the continuation of a practice that has gone on for nearly 30 years: importing millions of tons of high-end hazardous wastes from throughout the state, country and beyond for onsite treatment and landfilling. Opponents point to undesirable and unwanted waste truck traffic; questionable health and safety concerns to the area's population about CWM's practices; the obvious impacts to the environment and area waterways; excess landfill capacity; the stigma of having an industrial hazardous waste operation nearby with the negative influences to northern Niagara's quality of life, and its property values and overall economic climate, particularly with respect to its tourism economy.
Local governments opposed to such a scenario include the Niagara County Legislature, Niagara County Health Department, the Town and Village of Lewiston, Village of Youngstown and the Lewiston-Porter School District. Environmental groups include the Sierra Club, NYPIRG and WNY Environmental Alliance, Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper and Residents for Responsible Government. Others include area farmers, medical and religious interests and scores of local residents.
But there are also those who support CWM's continued presence in northern Niagara. They point to the company's financial benefits to the area: CWM's employment of local residents and the economic impact, its gross receipts tax assistance to select area municipalities and school districts, and its operations impact on sales taxes, plus parent Waste Management's corporate contributions to the area in the form of benefiting local food pantries, the needy, fire companies, law enforcement, youth groups, area sports, etc.
And there are those who cite CWM's location of being in a long-term industrial-zoned area - the former Lake Ontario Ordinance Works property (remaining portions of which encompass roughly 2,500 acres in the towns of Lewiston and Porter) - and argue these lands have little or no residential or farming value - now or in the future. They point to long-disturbed portions of LOOW that saw World War II-related activities and subsequent government dumping practices over past decades, how much of these lands remain significantly contaminated with wastes, some of it highly radioactive, and how the site has and continues to see dumping activities, including a major municipal garbage landfill and recycling operation next door.
Further, supporters point to CWM's operations as being technologically advanced and professionally run, arguing it would be impractical to relocate it elsewhere.
Over the past months, 883 comments (both oral and written/submitted by the public) were received by the DEC's Siting Board - a state group of upstate and downstate interests appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to evaluate CWM and consider its merits for the RMU-2 landfill expansion/operating permit. The vast majority of the oral arguments received, including those at a public hearing at Lewiston-Porter last summer, staunchly opposed the expansion. But a few of the written comments received showed pro-CWM support.
The next step by the DEC will be the scheduling of an issues conference, expected to take place locally. Its purpose will be to determine if there are any significant and substantive issues expected to be presented by municipal stakeholders and others seeking full-party status that would require an adjudicatory hearing.
So what does this community really think about CWM and its future? The Sentinel invites your response to a survey that asks:
•Are you in favor of DEC granting the CWM landfill expansion and long-term operating permit? Click "yes" or "no."
Click on the "Polls" tab and cast your vote. Only one vote per person will be counted.
In the comments section, you can indicate if you're opposed to the DEC approving the CWM expansion/permit in any form, or willing to accept a modified DEC approval - a limited landfill expansion and short-term operating permit for CWM.
Results will be included in an upcoming issue of the Sentinel.