LEWISTON –The long overdue cleanup of hazardous chemical and nuclear waste at the former Lake Ontario Ordnance Works could be delayed even longer because of Congress’ indecision on the federal budget, according to a local advisory group.
At best, a final cleanup at the former munitions plant at the town line between Lewiston and Porter is years away, but the “fiscal cliff” and a sequestration of federal spending could bring even the planning efforts to a halt, members of the LOOW Community Action Council were told last week.
“Sequestration could be a problem; some programs could be ended because of a lack of funds. In the long run, it will cost all of us because nothing will be done. It’s hard to have a real conversation about this, because there still may be a fiscal cliff,” Douglas J. Sarno, a technical facilitator provided by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, told the council.
The cleanup is expected to take years.
Sarno’s comments came on the same day that President Obama urged Congress to pass short-term spending cuts and higher taxes to delay sweeping, automatic cuts that would slice deeply into military and domestic programs starting March 1.
The automatic spending cuts are known in budget language as “sequesters.” An earlier fiscal cliff has been postponed by a temporary increase in the federal debt limit.
Because of the importance of federal budget support, a discussion of strategy with the Western New York delegation to Congress “is our priority for the next few weeks,” Joseph A. Gardella Jr. told the council. Gardella, a University at Buffalo professor, is co-chairman of the council’s Executive Committee.
When the Corps of Engineers delivers its memo on remedial alternatives at the old Lake Ontario Ordnance Works, one of its alternatives is almost certain to be complete removal of the residue for permanent disposal at a out-of-state site, such as one being built at Hanford, Wash.
The Associated Press and Targeted News Service contributed to this report.