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RAB faction dissents; elections to fill vacancies

by jmaloni
Sat, Aug 6th 2011 12:45 am

by Terry Duffy

Following the July 25 vote by Steering Committee members of the Lake Ontario Ordnance Works Restoration Advisory Board to dissolve and organize as the Niagara LOOW Action Council, comes news of others associated with the earlier RAB who now seek to remain as a separate group.

Bill Choboy, who serves as RAB membership committee chair announced Thursday that the RAB is accepting nominations through Aug. 12 to fill a minimum of four vacancies for its 15-member Steering Committee. "There were four resignations last week to form a non-regulated group. The RAB has not been dissolved," said Choboy. "To the contrary, the RAB is gearing up to evaluate and communicate risks at the LOOW site from federal legacy chemical and radiological contamination. These risks will heavily influence which potential solutions the Army Corps of Engineers selects in the next two years to clean up the site."

Choboy said he had heard from RAB associates over the past week who told him they felt the new Niagara LOOW Action Council would not wholly represent their interests with regards to LOOW. Mentioned as concerns was the group's intent to work more with the Corps on problems such as the Interim Waste Containment Structure in the Niagara Falls Storage Site at LOOW, but to a lesser extent on other issues such as ongoing Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Plan projects (government remediation at LOOW), CWM Chemical Services operations and LOOW site area contamination. "The NFSS cleanup work is important, but so are these," Choboy said.

Choboy said he has been in contact with new Corps facilitator Doug Sarno on this matter but has not spoken with Joe Gardella, professor and Larkin Chemistry chair at the University at Buffalo, who serves as chair for the new Niagara LOOW Action Council.

When reached, Gardella said he was "disappointed" Choboy's group is "presenting this effort, which will surely dilute community attention to the issues at the LOOW site. The claim that the RAB was not dissolved is false. A strong majority of Steering Committee members voted 6-0 to dissolve the RAB. This representation for the former LOOW RAB comes from those who chose not to attend and participate at the open meeting on July 25. The RAB was dissolved, and only after that, were resignations of the officers and committee chairs submitted and accepted.

"Finally, Restoration Advisory Boards (RABs) are official advisory organizations appointed by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. We all know that the Corps Buffalo District has chosen not to recognize the former LOOW RAB as an official RAB. Despite these disagreements over status of the LOOW RAB, our members have spent the last year on productive technical interactions with federal elected officials, the EPA and the Corps, culminating in the Corp's approval of the community's request for a technical facilitator, and the appointment of the community's top choice for the job, Douglas Sarno. Mr. Sarno has worked to craft a substantial community input process, and we have the commitment of the Corp staff to participate in monthly meetings of a new community based and community controlled organization. Perpetuating the myth that the LOOW RAB exists will simply add another confusing aspect to this difficult technical situation.

All the technical experts on the RAB, Drs. Bill Boeck and Mary Schreiner, myself, Nona McQuay, Walter Garrow and Guy Zaczek, have supported this transition to a new, comprehensive organization.

"We look forward to a productive community input process into a successful remediation plan for the Niagara Falls Storage Site, and into cleanups and maintenance of other former defense properties on the LOOW site."

Choboy noted that since its inception, "The RAB complements but does not replace other types of community outreach and participation efforts, or those activities required by applicable federal and state laws. For example, the new Niagara Action Council is a separate non-regulated group being formed to work with an Army Corps facilitator, whose scope is restricted to certain topics under just one of the Corps programs at the LOOW site."

On the other hand, Choboy said the RAB, which has been in place since 1999, is still operational and committed to its mission.

Choboy closed by stating that new members from the public are always welcomed to join the RAB. Steering Committee nominations or general membership requests can be sent to Bill Choboy at: [email protected] or call 745-7790.

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