Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

May 12, 2014

CONFER:

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Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — CWM Chemical Services maintains a 710-acre facility in the towns of Lewiston and Porter for the treatment, storage and disposal of hazardous and industrial non-hazardous wastes. Wastes accepted at this facility are disposed of in an on-site landfill (known as RMU-1) or shipped to another facility for further processing and disposal.

CWM has plans in the works to create a new 43.5-acre landfill (RMU-2) just to the west of its current one. The new dump would have a capacity of 4 million cubic yards for the disposal of hazardous and industrial non-hazardous wastes and will reach its capacity in 10 to 20 years. If you’d like to immerse yourself in the details of the proposal, there is trove of information on the Department of Environmental Conservation website at dec.ny.gov/chemical/9075.html.

Last week, the DEC announced that a public comment period is now open until July 7 in which interested parties can submit their feedback about the expansion.

Take advantage of that chance. We who live, work and play in Niagara County now have less than 60 days to make our voices heard and prevent this expansion.

Yes, prevent.

Sure, our economy needs a shot in the arm and most expansions of current businesses should be welcomed with open arms. But, there are certain times when we as a society need to take a step back and ask if it’s really the best thing for the health of our environment and our families. This is one of those times.

Realize that after the natural beauty of Niagara Falls and the mighty Niagara River, Niagara County is most known the world-over as being a cesspool of chemical waste (an odd amalgamation of contrasts). Before state/federal/international regulation and a better environmental understanding by the populace, manufacturers and tanneries dumped their offal into those waters, forever tainting them and their shorelines. Our own government also found it convenient to do the same while conducting the Manhattan Project.

From the river to Love Canal to an Eighteenmile Creek so stricken with poison its fish can’t be eaten (despite it being a tourist destination for fishing), it’s no wonder that we all know someone who has suffered from cancer, MS and other ailments that are more pronounced here than in most other regions of the country.

It’s likely CWM isn’t to blame for any of that, but decades of direct exposure to the same chemicals that they are bringing here — just under different circumstances with different corporations (many of which no longer exist) — are to blame. We need to learn from those mistakes.

CWM’s landfill will possess a double composite liner system consisting of natural and synthetic materials with primary and secondary systems for leachate collection and removal and it will meet stringent regulatory operating and design requirements. Even so, anything can happen. These are containment systems designed by and built by man, an erred species, so leaks can and do occur.

On top of that, people regularly make mistakes or deliberate “errors.” Case in point: In 2008, CWM agreed to pay a $175,000 penalty to settle a series of violations of its operating permit and state hazardous waste laws. At the time, the DEC noted dozens of violations including improperly labeled, deteriorating and leaking drums, disposal of non-hazardous waste without approval, process tank overflows, waste transporter conditions compliance failure and other issues.

Those are just some of the problems that can occur on-site. Consider what can happen off-site. These wastes have to come from somewhere, and will be trucked in, as they are now, from all corners of the country, from communities that know better than to store hazardous wastes in their backyards. Those trucks pass through our neighborhoods, by our schools and near our creeks. Sooner or later, one of those trucks will have an accident (especially given our five months of winter driving). When that happens, who knows what will be unleashed.

So, if you value the beauty and safety of Niagara County and what the future holds for your children and grandchildren, please take the time to share your comments with the DEC. Send them to James T. McClymonds, chief administrative law judge, NYSDEC Office of Hearings and Mediation Services, 625 Broadway, 1st Floor, Albany, NY 12233-1550; or CWMRMU2@gw.dec.state.ny.us.

Bob Confer is a Gasport resident and vice president of Confer Plastics Inc. in North Tonawanda. Email him at bobconfer@juno.com.