By Terry Duffy
Lewiston resident Amy Witryol announced the filing of a lawsuit Wednesday against the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, CWM Chemical Services LLC and its parent company, Waste Management Inc., in a press conference at the Hennepin Park Gazebo in Lewiston.
Witryol, joined in the suit by resident Thomas Freck of Porter, reported the intentions of their action was to end what she termed as "third party ("commercial") shipments of PCBs and other hazardous waste to the CWM Balmer Road facility bordering the towns of Lewiston and Porter.
CWM ceased active hazardous waste landfilling in Porter upon closure of its Residuals Management Unit 1 landfill at the site in November 2015, but continues to operate an aqueous treatment facility at the site - what Witryol called a "subset" of CWM's overall treatment and storage operations. She added that operation alone continues to cause negative impact to the area's water resources.
Focusing on their legal efforts, Witryol continued, "On Oct. 19 of this year, a lawsuit was filed in Erie County to stop the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation from arbitrarily reassigning tens of thousands of toxic trucks permitted for land disposal to instead carry PCBs and toxic waste in and out of (CWM) for treatment in a vented mixing pit, or to be spilled and cause toxic fires, as has happened ... in the past.
"CWM Chemical and Waste Management cannot operate a hazardous waste treatment and storage facility without a siting certificate from a state Siting Board."
"Our position is that CWM does not have such a certificate," Witryol said.
Despite this, Witryol and Freck in their suit claim that CWM continues to accept such waste for treatment in its vented mixing pits on the property; for discharge to the Niagara River, or for storage and repackaging, only to again be transported out to other facilities via local roads.
Witryol said this practice continues despite a 1993 decision by a former state Hazardous Waste Facility Siting Board that limited the treatment and storage of hazardous waste at the CWM facility only to its RMU-1 landfill operations.
"However, since RMU-1 closed, NYSDEC took the position that a landfill-specific certificate for 'ancillary' treatment and storage is identical to a certificate for permanent standalone treatment and storage, not sought in CWM's RMU-1 siting application, but nonetheless required from a Siting Board under state siting law," Witryol said. "Let me be clear; the New York state DEC does not have the authority to award CWM a Siting Certificate, not for a toxic mixing pit, a toxic trailer storage or a toxic landfill.
"This lawsuit is to stop what is presently a spark of treatment activity at CWM from turning into a blazing inferno in the future."
Witryol pointed out that, in the timeframe CWM operated its RMU-1 landfill, 5.7 million tons of PCB hazardous wastes were placed at the Balmer Road facility.
She stressed the lawsuit was not related to the current New York State Hazardous Waste Facility Siting Board, which is now reviewing CWM's 15-year-old series of applications for construction of a new RMU-2 hazardous waste landfill at its Balmer Road site.
"As for toxic waste treatment and storage, this lawsuit simply asks DEC staff and CWM to follow the law. CWM must apply for a treatment and storage certificate from a Siting Board in order to import any toxic waste to its site," she said.
Witryol told those gathered she was joined in this effort by Freck in order to prevent 68,000 truckloads of toxic waste per year coming into the community and past local schools in perpetuity.
Witryol went on to note Gov. Andrew Cuomo's recent remarks in Niagara Falls, pointing out the negative stigma having a hazardous waste landfill brings to the overall health and economic welfare of a community. "Stigma hurts the economic welfare of the public. This community wants an end to the hurt an end to the CWM stigma.
"With this lawsuit, combined with broad community effort to hold CWM's landfill application to the law, we will end the pain and the stigma, and make Lewiston-Porter the most desirable places to live and work in the entire state of New York."
Witryol was joined at the press conference by a number of local elected officials and candidates for office, including First District Niagara County Legislator Clyde Burmaster of Ransomville.
Burmaster spoke of the continuing efforts by multiple parties opposed to CWM's long-range plans on Balmer Road, which includes the aforementioned RMU-2 landfill. Noting the standing involvement of Niagara County, the Village of Youngstown, the Town and Village of Lewiston, the Lewiston-Porter School District, Residents for Responsible Government, and other area interests against the company, Burmaster said, "We're in it to win it."
He was joined by Lewiston Town Board member Al Bax, a longtime opponent of CWM and an advocate for its closure, who told the crowd, "Speaking for the town, we're adamantly against it. We vow to finish the fight."
The two were joined by Town of Lewiston Town Board candidates Vic Eydt and John Jacoby, who, likewise, voiced their opposition to the company.
Commenting on news of the suit, Lori Caso, CWM public affairs spokesperson, who was out of town vacationing in Prague, the Czech Republic, said, "The policy of Waste Management is that we do not comment on pending lawsuits. However, since we are in full compliance with the regulations on the site, we are confident that this lawsuit is without merit."
Attempts for a comment by the DEC were not successful as The Sentinel went to press.