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February 18, 2012

Dry cleaning owner agrees to testing

The owner of a partly ruined dry cleaning facility on Willow Street agreed this week to have the damaged portion asbestos-tested per state cleanup requirements.

Separately, Patrick McFall, the owner of the former Peters Dry Cleaning building at 316 Willow St., is the subject of a pending motion to force demolition of the rest of the facility.

Prosecutor Matthew Brooks submitted the motion to Lockport City Court, asking it for a demolition order.

The motion has not been argued yet, as lead city attorney John Ottaviano is attempting to persuade the state Department of Environmental Conservation to demolish the building in its entirety while it’s performing environmental cleanup work on the site, Ottaviano said Friday.

The property is a state Superfund-listed inactive hazardous waste site due to soil contamination by a dry cleaning chemical, tetrachloroethene or “PCE.” A dry cleaning business existed on the site from the late 1930s until last year, when McFall changed the business’ name and moved the operation to a Main Street storefront.

An addition on the west side of 316 Willow collapsed in December. McFall was cited by the city last month for failure to clean up the debris — but he said he wasn’t allowed to unless he first obtained an asbestos survey. McFall refused, insisting it wasn’t necessary because there’s no asbestos in the rubble to be remediated.

He relented Thursday because he’s tired of being called into court every week to tell a judge what he has or hasn’t done about the rubble, he said; and will pay an estimated $540 for a survey that he remains sure will show negative results.

“Once it’s proven that I’m right, I’ll have people over there the very next day to clean up, just as I’d planned on the day after (the collapse),” McFall said. “I hate seeing that building sit there in that condition ... . If I was a resident in the neighborhood, I’d be (angry) about it too; but my hands have been tied.”

If the asbestos survey turns up a positive result, state law will require special removal techniques and special disposal of the rubble. It’s the greatly increased cost of such cleanup that McFall has tried to avoid, saying he can’t afford it. He hasn’t been able to get insurance on the facility since DEC declared it hazardous, he said.

Of the city’s motion to force demolition of the facility entirely, McFall said he’d fight it because it’s not necessary. The facility is composed of an original brick building, the west-side addition that collapsed and a south-side addition that’s been eyed by the DEC. McFall insists the original brick portion is a standalone building that could be rehabilitated, and he won’t accept any moves by the city to have it torn down — and him stuck with the demolition tab.

On the other hand, McFall said, “if they want to demolish it and it’s not going to cost me anything, then I’m all for it.”

Ottaviano is trying to get DEC to agree to just that, he said.

DEC previously pledged to demolish the south-side addition, under which PCE contamination is found to have migrated over time, Ottaviano said. Once that happens, only the front portion of the facility will be left and DEC could easily take care of that, too, he said.

“How do you demolish half a building? We’re trying to persuade (DEC) to take it all.”

Brooks is seeking a demolition order in the event DEC doesn’t agree, Ottaviano said.

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