LOCKPORT – If there was a general theme to Tuesday night’s public meeting on the Eighteen Mile Creek cleanup and the buyout of five homes on Water Street in Lockport, that theme was: What about us?
Variations on that theme were voiced by residents from throughout Lockport’s Lowertown district at the meeting called by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which drew close to 100 people to the Niagara County Fairgrounds.
The EPA announced last month that its $3.8 million cleanup plan for the area surrounding the burned-out Flintkote plant includes buying five homes at $50,000 apiece, demolishing them and relocating the residents; removing 5,800 cubic yards of soil on Water Street and replacing it with clean fill; and tearing down the hulk of the Flintkote plant, regarded as the source of the lead, ash and PCB contamination that washed into Water Street backyards for years.
Remedial project manager Thomas Taccone said the purchase and demolition of the houses and the demolition of Flintkote won’t occur until sometime in 2014. He said the site must compete with other sites for funding, but he said it’s unlikely Flintkote will lose out.
“When human health is involved, it takes precedence. And it’s contained. We’re not talking hundreds of homes,” Taccone said.
Although Tuesday’s session was a legal formality, residents used it to remind the EPA that there could be a lot more toxic trouble in Lowertown.
Elizabeth Holland, the only Water Street homeowner who is not being bought out, for the third time publicly requested soil sampling on her property, which is located around a bend from the others. The bought-out homes are technically on Water Lane, according to a city tax map.
“I’m stuck there. There’s going to be arson, vandalism, drug use. The neighborhood’s going to go to hell,” Holland said. She wanted to know the future for the street, “or am I forever destined to live in a house I can’t sell, next to a sign that says ‘hazardous waste site’?”
Pietro Mannino, EPA’s remediation section chief, said the plan is to clean up the properties enough so that they can be reused for new homes. After the demolition, he said, “We then plan to put security fencing up.”
And numerous residents from blocks around also called for testing. Many were among the 99 property owners who five years ago received letters from the state Department of Environmental Conservation, informing them that because of their proximity to Flintkote, they had to disclose the presence of a toxic site to any potential buyers.