MIDDLEPORT – FMC Corp. asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last week to overrule the state’s position on a remedial plan for 202 Middleport properties where the soil contains arsenic blown from FMC’s plant.
Letters making the company’s case landed in Middleport mailboxes late last week.
Nearly a year ago, the state Department of Environmental Conservation selected a plan that would see all 202 properties dug up in an effort to reduce arsenic readings below the soil background level of 20 parts per million. That would cost FMC $70 million.
FMC’s proposal, requiring less excavation, would be to reach an average of 20 parts per million on each property at a cost to the company of $27 million.
Judging by a public meeting in Middleport a year ago, most residents wish the excavations would cease. They said they’ve seen no health impact from the arsenic in the soil and are tired of the village being dug up, with some residential areas stripped of trees and shrubs, to accomplish a goal that many think isn’t worth the trouble.
There have been six excavation projects in Middleport since 1996, aimed at reducing the arsenic levels attributed to FMC’s agricultural chemical plant.
The newest plan calls for excavating the entire Royalton-Hartland Central School campus, except for the parts already dug up in previous projects.
Last September, State Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-Newfane, and Assemblywoman Jane L. Corwin, R-Clarence, announced that they would ask Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to put a stop to the DEC’s plans.
That didn’t happen, said Robert T. Forbes, FMC’s director of remediation and governance, in a Friday press briefing.
“We believe the DEC’s chosen remedy is overly burdensome on the property owner without an uptick in protectiveness,” said Shawn J. Tollin, FMC’s remediation project manager for Middleport.
Forbes said the company filed an appeal with the EPA, under terms of the consent agreement between the company and the two government agencies, asking for a review of the DEC’s plans.
The deadline to file was April 30, but Forbes said that even though the papers weren’t filed until May 1, FMC was taking advantage of a 15-day grace period.
The consent agreement says the EPA’s Region 2 office in New York City has 30 days or “a reasonable time” to respond to FMC’s request.
EPA spokesman Elias Rodriguez said that FMC’s papers were received, but had not yet been reviewed.
The DEC did not respond to a request for comment. Last year, it said property owners could opt out of the remediation and promised “flexibility,” but Forbes said FMC hasn’t seen that.
“The agency’s remedy uses a statewide (arsenic) standard and doesn’t differentiate between land uses,” Forbes said. In other words, a commercial parcel would have to be as arsenic-free as a home or a schoolyard.
If FMC is able to win the EPA’s support for its preferred option, about 20 percent of the properties affected by the DEC plan would not have to be touched, said Barbara E. Ritchie, associate director of FMC’s Environmental Group.