Testing standards for landfill are faulted

The Buffalo News: Niagara County:

Testing standards for landfill are faulted
Residents group cites flaws in CWM plan
Updated: 10/19/07 7:48 AM 

LEWISTON — New state testing requirements for CWM Chemical Services fail to adequately investigate for plutonium, exclude areas that drain into local creeks and may allow the company to skirt other environmental standards, according to some members of a residents advisory group.

Members of the Community Advisory Committee to the Northeast’s only commercial hazardous-waste landfill Thursday questioned the scope of plans to investigate radiological contamination at the Balmer Road facility in the Town of Porter.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation, which will have to review the company’s upcoming application to expand its Balmer Road landfill by 50 acres, approved the testing plans in late August.

“It seems to defy logic and reason at some points,” said Lewiston resident Karl Frankovitch.

Even a state environmental engineer seemed to see potential problems in the approved plans.

James Strickland, an agency engineer involved in hazardous-waste issues, presented details of the approved testing requirements to the group in Lewiston Town Hall.

Strickland said the testing plans are adaptable.

“It’s a learning process for us, too,” he said.

Portions of the CWM site were used to dispose of radioactive waste from experiments that were part of the Manhattan Project. The landfill facility is also adjacent to a 191-acre federal storage facility for radioactive waste known as the Niagara Falls Storage Site.

The state Department of Health issued an order banning soil disturbance in 1972, an order that was not enforced on any of the landfill operators at the site.

In 2002, the Army Corps of Engineers found small amounts of plutonium on an unused portion of the CWM site. The agency is continuing to investigate chemical and radiological contamination there.

The radiological testing plans include:

• A walkover survey of gamma radiation in areas both a part of current operations and to be developed.

• Soil sampling of areas with elevated radiation levels identified by the walkover survey.

• Tests of buildings that remain on site since the time the area was a part of the former Lake Ontario Ordnance Works, a federal weapons production facility. • Other air, water and ground


• Permission for CWM to excavate their site for “small projects,” though the company is not limited in number of projects.

Advisory committee members questioned why the ground survey did not include an area known as the Central Drainage Ditch.

The ditch drains water from the CWM site into both Four Mile Creek and Twelve Mile Creek.

Lewiston resident Amy Witryol said she believes the area was cut out from testing after negotiations between state agency officials and CWM. Testing there would be expensive for CWM, and the area would not be part of the planned landfill expansion, Witryol said.

Town of Porter resident William Rolland said he was “thoroughly frustrated” by the bureaucracy involved at a site that has been the subject of investigation for decades.

Rolland said he could not understand why the Army Corps of Engineers does not have jurisdiction over the whole site.

“The whole process is just baffling,” he said.

CWM did not send a representative to Thursday after- noon’s meeting. Afterward, spokeswoman Lori Caso said the testing standards imposed by the state are meticulous.

During digging, the tests will check for radiation every 6 inches. A certified health physicist will also be on hand during excavation, Caso said.

She also invited the public to a Nov. 8 information session on the radiation testing plans. The session will take place in the facility, 1550 Balmer Road. For information on the session, call 754-0404.

Copies of the approved testing plans are available at Youngstown Free Library, 240 Lockport St., Youngstown, and Porter Town Hall, 3265 Creek Road.

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