By Benjamin Joe
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation announced a period of public comment regarding the school on Military Road in the Town of Niagara, which was destroyed in a fire in July.
In a bulletin, the DEC said an application to investigate whether the former school site was a brownfield had been filed by the owner.
“There are several ways to comment on BCP (Brownfield Cleanup Program) applications,” the bulletin read. “Comments can be submitted to the site Project Manager Andrew Zwack at NYSDEC, 270 Michigan Ave., Buffalo, NY 14203-2915; via email at [email protected] or by calling 716-851-7220. All comments must be submitted by December 20, 2019.”
“New York’s Brownfield Cleanup Program is designed to encourage private-sector cleanups of brownfields and to promote their redevelopment as a means to revitalize economically blighted communities,” the bulletin continued. “The BCP is an alternative to ‘greenfield’ (land not previously developed or contaminated) development and is intended to remove some of the barriers to, and provide tax incentives for, the redevelopment of brownfields. Since its inception (2003), the BCP has catalyzed the cleanup of more than 300 contaminated sites statewide and incentivized redevelopment. There are more than 350 active sits in the BCP.”
According to Chad Staniszewski, a regional engineer with DEC, the Brownfield Cleanup Program is offered by the state of New York and offers tax incentives to investigate, clean up and redevelop former industrial sites.
“The Brownfield Cleanup Program covers a variety of sites,” he said. “Including quarter-acre gas stations to the portion of the former Bethlehem Steel factory property, which is 500 acres. It really covers a wide range of sites. Some have much less contamination, others are more heavily contaminated.”
Staniszewski said there are 100 active cleanup sites in Region 9, which covers Niagara, Erie, Wyoming, Cattaraugus, Allegany and Chautauqua counties. He also said there are 105 sites that have received a certificate of completion.
“Essentially, they have successfully remediated the sites,” he said. “They’ve met the requirements of the Brownfield Cleanup Program and, at that point, those sites have been eligible to receive the tax credits from New York State.”
“We accept and review all public comments that we receive,” Staniszewski said in regard to the public comment period the DEC initiates after an application has been completed. “Some people comment on the post-redevelopment, which really falls outside of the scope the Brownfield Cleanup Program. Some people have factual comments, like, ‘Hey, I used to work there and you should look for X, Y, Z.’ They may have disposed of something in an area of the site so it can guide our investigation.
“Most sites we do not receive a lot of comment on the application itself, but occasionally we do receive some.”
Staniszewski said, in the case of the Military Road School, the contamination may come from fuel storage tanks that leaked, or hydraulic lifts in the lower part of the building used for education.
“There was no former industrial uses that I’m aware of,” he said. “Each site we look at individually.
“This site is not in the Brownfield Cleanup Program yet, we have to wait until the public comments period is over. We also have to make an eligibility determination ourselves. There’s multiple technical folks here at the DEC who work in our regional office and our central office in Albany. … We discuss these site and determine whether they meet the minimum eligibility requirements.”