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TOWN OF NIAGARA – An offensive odor behind the town garage on Lockport Road is apparently coming from high levels of a pesticide dumped somewhere on the back property.

Preliminary bore samples taken on the town property found levels of lindane, an agricultural insecticide, that were more than twice the amount normally detected in the area, a state engineer told the Town Board at a work session Thursday. The use of lindane in agriculture has been banned by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Although the results aren’t definite yet, the levels are not believed to be widespread in that area, said Greg Sutton, a hazardous waste remediation engineer with the state Department of Environmental Conservation,

Board members said they were concerned with how far back the traces could be found and whether they reached beyond the railroad tracks to a residential area.

Both Sutton and Town Engineer Norman Gardner, from Clark Patterson Lee, said only further testing could confirm how far the contaminant has traveled but because of the hard soil conditions in the property, the pesticide is not believed to have migrated very far.

Gardner said the recent sampling by his firm did not find the pesticide on the surface but did find it below a buried layer of stone by the back fence and about one to two feet thick. Sutton said it is possible that the pesticide “would branch out” to some degree.

Highway Superintendent Robert Herman said his workers noticed the smell and a “sniffer” apparatus used in the sewer department was brought in but found nothing volatile. Herman said he notified the engineer.

Sutton said lindane is a fairly common contaminant found in many local landfills. Several local chemical companies have been known to dispose of it in low-lying areas during “midnight dumping,” he said.

If the responsible parties could be found, they would be charged for clean-up and remediation of the land by the DEC. Unfortunately, it would be difficult to prove who the culprit was without witnesses, Sutton said.

The board has two choices, according to Sutton:

DEC could be brought in to conduct complete testing, dig out the contaminated soil and transfer it to a landfill. The work would be covered by federal “Superfund” money but the DEC would not be able to begin work until after the first of the year;

Or, the board could have Gardner’s firm hire an outside environmental contractor to begin the work in one or two weeks to determine the extent of the problem.

If the board opted to have the engineering firm do the work, the cost would not be recoverable from DEC.

Supervisor Steven Richards and Deputy Supervisor Danny Sklarski said they favored getting the work under way as soon as possible.

Sklarski said a plan needs to be in place while Richards said he was concerned if the contaminants had traveled beyond the tracks.

Councilman Marc Carpenter noted that the chemicals have been there for many years and were not believed to have migrated. He said it may be best to wait for DEC to handle the project.

The board is expected to make a decision when it meets on Tuesday.