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Cuomo directs immediate and expanded testing for contamination at Wheatfield landfill

Submitted and Staff Reporting

Tue, Apr 18th 2017 02:00 pm

Soil & groundwater testing to include properties surrounding landfill to ensure no impact to homes

On Monday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo directed the New York state departments of Environmental Conservation and Health to expand ongoing investigations of the former Niagara Sanitation Landfill in order to ensure no contamination is impacting nearby residential properties. DEC is working with the Town of Wheatfield to immediately expand its landfill sampling investigation to include both soil and groundwater testing in surrounding residential properties to ensure contamination has been contained to the landfill.

Additionally, the Department of Health, the Niagara County Water District and the Wheatfield Municipal Water System continue to monitor the public water supply, which has not been impacted by the contamination.

Several residents who live near the landfill have filed a lawsuit against the Town of Wheatfield. The lawsuit claims toxic chemicals have seeped from the site onto their properties, which caused them to have health issues.

The lawsuit alleges the town neglected to add safety measures and warn residents of the danger of the site.

Companies that have dumped waste at the landfill are also named as defendants.

In March, DEC initiated a new investigation of the full nature and extent of on-site contamination and to confirm no contamination has migrated from the site. DEC's expanded investigation will now verify preliminary results indicating that residential properties are not impacted by the landfill. In addition to the ongoing collection of soil and groundwater samples throughout the landfill, additional samples will be collected on residential properties to determine whether offsite migration of contaminants has occurred. The results of this survey will guide any necessary remediation actions.

"New York is committed to ensuring communities across the state have safe, reliable access to drinking water, and I am directing DEC to expand their investigation and ensure no contamination from the Niagara Sanitation Landfill is impacting nearby residential properties," Cuomo said. "This investigation will move quickly and thoroughly to ensure that there are no impacts to surrounding homes from the landfill."

DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, "Protecting public health and the environment is DEC's top priority, and we will rapidly investigate and identify the nature and extent of the contamination this spring, including collecting samples on residential properties. After this expanded investigation is complete, any necessary cleanup options will be identified and implemented expeditiously to safeguard this community."

Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, "Under Gov. Cuomo's leadership, DOH has worked tirelessly to ensure clean drinking water in communities all across New York state. Aggressive sampling programs, like the one that's working to protect residents here in Western New York, are critical to providing the quality drinking water New Yorkers deserve."

Sampling will begin as soon as access is granted by property owners and is anticipated to take place within the next month. It will start with residences that border the landfill property along Forbes Street and Forbes Terrace. Additional properties may be considered, but will be dependent on residential results.

The Niagara Sanitation Landfill, which was in operation from 1955-68, accepted various wastes from the surrounding community, including nearby industries. In 1968, the New York State Department of Transportation used a portion of the landfill to dispose of contaminated soils generated during construction of the LaSalle Expressway. These soils were later determined to be contaminated by Love Canal waste generated by the Hooker Chemical Co., now the Occidental Chemical Corp. DEC performed three investigations in the 1980s, which determined no contamination had migrated from the site. DEC initiated a reevaluation of the landfill in 2013, and discovered areas of exposed contaminated materials were present, necessitating a reclassification to a Class 2 superfund site in December 2015 to ensure this additional contamination is addressed. Occidental entered into a consent order with the DEC and voluntarily removed the Love Canal-related waste in 2014 and 2015 for disposal in an approved facility.

To protect the public from potential exposure of materials at the landfill property, the Town of Wheatfield, the landfill's current owner, is in the process of constructing a fence with $75,000 in funds approved this week by the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York. DEC is assisting in preconstruction clearing to expedite construction of a fence and reduce the town's costs. The clearing work is expected to be completed this spring.

The Town of Wheatfield is served by public water from the west branch of the Niagara River and purchased from the Niagara County Water District. Testing under the EPA's Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule between 2013 and 2015 found no detections of concern. Sampling, as recent as February, for organic contaminants traditionally associated with landfills, also returned nondetectable levels. DEC and DOH will continue to monitor the landfill and surrounding residences to ensure the public health and the environment are protected.

Cuomo is also directing DEC and DOH to keep the community informed throughout the investigation. DEC and DOH will host a public information session this spring to provide residents with the opportunity to discuss the investigation with state officials, as well as to share any sampling that has been collected on their properties. Anyone with information helpful to the state's ongoing investigation is encouraged to contact DEC officials with any relevant data at: www.dec.ny.gov/data/der/factsheet/932054invstart.pdf; or Project Manager Glenn May, at the Department of Environmental Conservation Division of Environmental Remediation, at 270 Michigan Ave., Buffalo, 716-851-7220.

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