Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — A conversation that began Tuesday will continue in regards to cleaning up Eighteenmile Creek.
Representatives of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency shared their approach to a three-phase cleanup of the creek, focusing on a variety of actions for the first phase. That would be the remediation of nine residential properties on Water Street and demolition of the former Flintkote building on Mill Street.
A group of residents responded with questions and concerns. Some condemned local leaders, charging that they have not done enough to help property owners affected by the creek.
“Local officials did nothing,” said Mike Pillot, a longtime Lowertown resident who also lost a pair of mayoral elections.
He gave credit to former U.S. Rep. Kathy Hocul and Shirley Nicholas, a city resident who has been extremely active on Eighteenmile Creek issues.
Half a million dollars have been spent on concerts but almost nothing has happened in regard to Water Street, Pillot said. It’s like putting a band aid on a broken arm, he added.
Nicholas encouraged support for the homeowners affected by Eighteenmile.
“We can’t let this go, we got to show them we can do it,” Nicholas said.
Homeowners surrounding Water Street were asking questions too Tuesday night. Elizabeth Holland, the only Water Street homeowner who is not being bought out, said for the third time she was publicly requesting soil sampling on her property.
“I’m stuck there. There’s going to be arson, vandalism, drug use. The neighborhood’s going to go to hell,” Holland said.
She also wanted to know the future for the street. Mannino said the plan is to clean up the properties enough so that they can be reused for new development.
James Stiles, one of the Water Street homeowners who would be relocated, said he and other residents should have medical tests, too.
“We’ve haven’t been tested,” Stiles said. “We need to see if there’s anything wrong with us.”
Numerous residents called for testing. Many were among the 99 property owners who received letters from the state Department of Environmental Conservation in May 2008, informing them that because of their proximity to Flintkote, they had to disclose the presence of a toxic site to any potential buyers.
But most of those 99 properties are not in the Superfund corridor, said Thomas Taccone, the EPA’s remedial project manager. He said the EPA is trying to craft “a comprehensive plan” for future action.
Michael Basile, EPA’s community involvement coordinator, said Skeo Solutions was available to serve as technical adviser for residents with questions. In order to contact Skeo, residents should contact Nicholas or Pietro Mannino, EPA Region 2 Western New York remediation section chief.
Taccone shared some of the proposed actions for the first phase.
EPA’s preferred cleanup proposal calls for demolition of the one remaining building at the old Flintkote plant, 300 Mill St., and acquisition of the nine residential parcels along Water Street and Water Lane. The yards of targeted properties consist mostly of fill that is contaminated by PCBs and heavy metals, the agency says.
That plan was announced last month. The $3.8 million initiative would include removal of 5,800 cubic feet of soil, and the purchase of the five homes on the private lots at $50,000 each.
Mannino and Taccone said the demolition would be “very controlled” in order to prevent contamination from reaching other properties. That will include security fencing and monitoring.
Six of those properties are privately owned and three are city owned vacant lots.
Under the EPA’s preferred course of action, the agency would buy out private property owners and permanently relocate the residents. The City of Lockport would turn over the three lots to the EPA, which have a combined assessed value of less than $7,000.
The Eighteenmile Creek Superfund site consists of the 13-mile section of the creek that runs north roughly from Clinton Street, Lockport, to Lake Ontario at Olcott, plus the Water Lane properties, the Flintkote property, two other industrial lots on Mill Street and Upson Park off Clinton Street.
Phase two cleanup efforts will be aimed at land parcels and creek bed in the city, EPA said previously. Phase three is cleanup of the rest of the creek, from Harwood Street to Olcott.
The phase-one proposed cleanup plan can be read at Lockport Public Library; or downloaded from www.epa.gov/region02/superfund/npl/18milecreek. Comments can be sent to Taccone at US EPA Region 2, 290 Broadway, 20th Floor, New York, NY 10007-1866 or emailed at email@example.com.
The public comment period on the first phase ends Aug. 26.
Taccone said the EPA is planning a late September release of the first-phase Record of Decision, which reflects the cleanup plan that EPA has formally adopted. Once that decision is posted, the remedy can begin with resident relocation and Flintkote demolition.
With the proposed relocation plan, said the agency will work with real estate specialists to conduct private sale negotiations with homeowners.
The real estate specialists can also help homeowners find new places to live. The EPA will cover their moving expenses and some utility expenses at new quarters, Basile said. The agency projected the relocation process will take one year.FOR MORE INFORMATION • Phase-one proposed cleanup plan can be read at Lockport Public Library; or downloaded from www.epa.gov/region02/superfund/npl/18milecreek • Comments can be mailed to Thomas Taccone, remedial project manager, US EPA Region 2, 290 Broadway, 20th Floor, New York, NY 10007-1866 or emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org • The public comment period on the plan ends Aug. 26 Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241 or follow him on Twitter @joeolenick.