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By Charles Lamb

For many years, the public has faithfully gone to hearings called by the Department of Environmental Conservation with regard to issues at the hazardous waste landfill in Niagara County.

Year after year, the great majority of speakers have pointed out the danger of trucking toxics here from many states, the unsuitability of burying them in the watershed area of Lake Ontario, the higher-than-normal rates of childhood cancer in the area and the frequency of trucks leaking en route to the site.

Recently another hearing was held concerning Chemical Waste Management’s request to have its permit renewed for continued operation. Once more the majority of people present opposed this.

Many reasons were given, including these provided by the Sierra Club:

• Failure of the DEC to complete an appropriate modification to CWM’s State Pollutant Discharge Elimination Systems permit to limit PCB and mercury discharges.

• Failure of the DEC to require excavation protocols to protect its workers and the community from exposure to radiological materials known to exist on its property.

• Failure of the DEC to require appropriate financial assurances for perpetual maintenance.

David Denk, the DEC’s regional permit administrator, said the department already “has made a tentative determination” to renew CWM’s operating permit “with some modifications.”

Nils Olsen, retired dean of the University at Buffalo Law School, stated that there seemed to be a “symbiotic relationship” between CWM and some representatives of the DEC.

The Department of Environmental Conservation should remember its name, and not become a department with a bias toward granting permits. There are adequate reasons why the permit should be denied.

Once this permit is granted, if it is, CWM plans to make another permit request to expand its operation so as to continue bringing hazardous materials here for decades to come. This in spite of the determination by the DEC itself that there is no need for another hazardous waste facility in New York State and a resolution by the Niagara County Legislature that the presence of such facilities is an economic detriment to the area.

The present landfill will reach capacity within two years. After that, workers will be needed to guard and maintain it. It is time to end the bringing of hazardous wastes to this environmentally sensitive area.

Comments may be made to the DEC until March 29 with regard to CWM’s permit application. They may be sent to David Denk, NYS DEC Region 9, 270 Michigan Ave., Buffalo, NY 14203 or emailed to R9dep@gw.dec.state.ny.us.

Charles Lamb of Youngstown is a member of the Niagara Group of the Sierra Club.