BY JOE OLENICK
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will clean up nine properties along Eighteenmile Creek in the city of Lockport and relocate Water Street residents from five of the properties, the agency announced Friday.
That plan includes demolishing an industrial building at the former Flintkote plant site as part of the first phase of cleanup. Located at 300 Mill St., the plant's demolition would allow the EPA to sample soil under the building to determine if it is contaminated.
It was good news, albeit news that was a long time coming, said Mayor Michael Tucker.
"We thought it was a viable option and we support it, as long as the homeowners support it," he said.
Tucker said the EPA hasn't talked directly to homeowners yet. The plan could be put into action as soon as the fall, once everything is worked out with the relocating homeowners.
Those nine residential properties located on Water Street are contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls and other contaminants, including lead and chromium. PCBs are a probable human carcinogen and affect the immune, reproductive, nervous and endocrine systems and cause other health effects.
And when there's flooding, Eighteenmile Creek, containing those PCBs and other contaminants, overflows its banks into nearby properties. Some residents on Water Street report experiencing recurrent flooding, up to 8 to 10 times a year.
Then there was June 28, when five inches of rain pounded the city of Lockport in just a few hours.
So, moving the residents is the best option, the EPA said.
“This plan will take the residents with contaminated properties out of harms’ way,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck in a release. “It will also allow us to remove the contamination from the area to reduce any future risk to people or the environment. I encourage the public to give us input on the proposed plan.”
In its plan, the EPA is proposing to buy six residential properties that are privately owned, two of which by the same owner. The agency will permanently relocate affected residents, demolish the homes and excavate the contaminated soil. Then a two-phased cleanup period will take place.
Three other properties, which are owned by the City of Lockport and are vacant and contain no buildings, will also be cleaned up.
The EPA will hold a public meeting on Aug. 13 to explain the proposed plan and take public comments. The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at the 4-H Training Center at the Niagara County Fairgrounds, 4487 Lake Ave. The plan is viewable at the Lockport Public Library and on the EPA website.
Written comments postmarked by Aug. 26 may be mailed to Thomas Taccone, remedial project manager, U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 2, 290 Broadway, 20th Floor, New York, NY 10007-1866. Comments may also be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
All comments will be accepted until Aug. 26.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer said he was "pleased the EPA heeded my call and is proposing as part of their remedial action plan the relocation of these residents, which prioritizes safety and is the far more cost-effective option."
Two weeks ago, Schumer wrote a letter to acting EPA Administrator Bob Perciasepe stating that the EPA should move residents to protect their health and safety. Doing so would be a cheaper short-term option, Schumer wrote, but it’s also more cost-effective over the long-term. The cost to purchase all the homes is estimated at only $250,000 but a temporary soil cap would cost approximately $1.2 million and could be washed away by future flooding, the senator wrote.
“The EPA’s decision to move the residents away from contamination first and then clean up the contaminated site is a smart choice for the health and safety of Western New Yorkers,” Schumer said. “This proposed solution takes these residents out of harms’ way, and avoids a course of action that would have left them exposed to hazardous contamination. These homeowners who have rightfully been concerned about contamination in their yards, drinking water and flooded basements are now going to get the relief and peace of mind they deserve.”
Eighteen Mile Creek has a long history of industrial use dating back to the 1800s when it was used as a source of power. The headwaters of the creek consist of an east and west branch which begin immediately north of the New York State Barge Canal. The creek flows north for approximately 15 miles and discharges into Lake Ontario in Olcott.
The site was placed on the Superfund National Priorities List in March 2012. Investigations at the site have revealed that sediments, soil and ground water in and around the creek and nearby properties are contaminated with a combination of pollutants.
The contaminated residential properties, along with the remaining building at the former Flintkote Plant, encompass an area of approximately 2.25 acres along Water Street.FOR MORE INFORMATION • Check out the proposed cleanup plan and more information about the Eighteenmile/Flintkote site online at http://www.epa.gov/region02/superfund/npl/18milecreek/ • Information will also be placed in the Lockport Public Library, 23 East Ave. • Written comments postmarked by Aug. 26 may be mailed to: Thomas Taccone, Remedial Project Manager U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 2 290 Broadway, 20th Floor New York, NY 10007-1866 • Comments may also be emailed to email@example.com Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241 or follow him on Twitter @joeolenick.