Garbage trains that idle through the night are blamed for noxious fumes and constant engine noise for much of the summer in a residential area of Depew.
Depew Trustee Linda Hammer, who lives on Princeton Avenue just a few hundred yards away from Walden Avenue, said it is not a minor problem.
“My husband and I have been affected. Mostly, the stench is what gets to you,” she said, noting the problem has been going on since early spring. “It’s a high-volume smell, not a little, stinky problem.”
Just last weekend, Hammer said she and her husband could barely enjoy gardening and yard work because of the stench.
“Every time a breeze blows, you get a whiff of this stinky garbage.” She noted that she spoke earlier this week with CSX and was told the garbage is being shipped from South Kearney, N.J., to Colton, Ky. “It can be overwhelming.”
Hammer said the box cars of garbage, which were covered but have a side door that opens, were idling for 30 hours on July 4. Each box car carries solid municipal waste that is compacted with 62 cubic yards of refuse and about a 700-pound density per cubic yard, Hammer said she was told by a federal official.
“I’m really trying to follow this closely because it affects every street off Walden,” Hammer said. “It also hurts Sloan.”
Now U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer is trying to troubleshoot the problem with CSX after Depew Mayor Steven P. Hoffman and residents contacted his office, looking for help to remedy the problem after failing to receive a response from CSX officials.
“The bottom line is that a quiet, residential neighborhood like Depew is no place to park smelly and noisy garbage trains,” Schumer said in a prepared statement. “These trains are having a negative impact on the health and quality of life of Depew residents and something must be done.”
It is not known why the trains end up spending so much time idling in Depew.
CSX spokesman Rob Doolittle said he had no immediate comment until he looks into the matter further.
David Burkhardt, who lives on Autumn Lea Road across from the trains, said he was doing work on his deck with his brother-in-law in early July and nearly became ill from the stench.
“You get a warm day, and the smell almost made me physically ill. I felt nauseous,” he said. “My brother-in-law thought something had died under my deck.”
Burkhardt said it’s much worse when the weather is hot and muggy. “It’s a quality-of-life issue. If we had a summer that was hot and muggy, you wouldn’t be able to stand it out here,” he said. “It’s just not right.”
Cheektowaga Town Councilman James P. Rogowski, who contacted Schumer’s office on behalf of Burkhardt, said he was driving last week through the affected area of Depew near Walden and noticed the smell in his truck.
“When I drove down Walden near the trains, I had to roll my windows up because the way the wind was blowing from west to north off the tracks, I could smell it,” he said. “I don’t care where you live, there’s no one who should have to smell that smell blowing into their backyards.”
Schumer is urging CSX to find an alternate, non-residential location for the trains to alleviate the situation for nearby village residents. The cargo train cars carrying large amounts of garbage are left in a heavily residential area, he said.
“This has left many residents unable or unwilling to go outside or open their windows, despite the heat,” the senator said.
The village contacted CSX about the idling garbage trains several times through June and July, with no response, Schumer’s office said.
Residents were assured before the July 4 that the trains would be moved, Schumer said. But that has not happened. Schumer has written to Michael J. Ward, chairman and chief executive officer of CSX.