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The owners of a new paper mill in Niagara Falls have taken former owners of their property to court, claiming the former owners are responsible for radioactive contamination found while clearing the site.

Greenpac Mill is demanding $50 million in compensatory damages from National Grid, Occidental Chemical Corp. and Kimberly-Clark Corp. in the suit filed in U.S. District Court in Buffalo.

Greenpac, at 4400 Royal Ave., also demands that the former owners be held liable for 100 percent of Greenpac’s cleanup costs.

The paper company asserts in the lawsuit that it had no inkling radioactive waste was on the site. The just-opened $430 million linerboard mill was constructed after Greenpac demolished three old buildings on the property.

Greenpac entered the state’s Brownfield Cleanup Program in 2010, agreeing to follow a work plan the Department of Environmental Conservation approved in exchange for a package of tax credits.

Greenpac removed 135,839 tons of contaminated soil and 67,827 tons of clean soil that could be reused elsewhere, according to a DEC report in June 2012.

The contaminated soil was dumped in local permitted landfills.

In August 2011, three trucks hauling soil from the site to Allied Landfill triggered radiation detectors, according to the lawsuit. Greenpac, a subsidiary of Quebec-based Norampac, asserts that neither it nor the DEC had any idea radioactive waste was on the site.

The DEC plan for the Greenpac work was amended to call for removal of the radioactive soil to a landfill in Michigan. Greenpac said it spent more than $6 million removing and hauling 20,000 tons of such soil.

The DEC’s report said that was part of a total $16.2 million cleanup cost for the Royal Avenue property.

Corporate predecessors to National Grid, formerly Niagara Mohawk Power Corp., owned the land from January 1891 to March 1920, according to the lawsuit filed by Buffalo attorney Craig A. Slater.

Kimberly-Clark owned a plant on the site from March 1920 to May 1974.

The radioactive material was found under Kimberly-Clark plant buildings that Greenpac demolished, the suit says.

It also alleges that Kimberly-Clark and National Grid arranged with Occidental or others to allow disposal of radioactive waste on the Royal Avenue property. Occidental is the current owner of the former Hooker Chemical Co. of Niagara Falls.

County land records show Norampac acquired the property from the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency in 1987. The IDA had taken it over from the City of Niagara Falls. Norampac turned it over to its Greenpac subsidiary in 2011.

Slater and Greenpac did not return calls seeking comment Tuesday. Spokesmen for Occidental, National Grid and Kimberly-Clark would not comment.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com