Three people were named to a state siting board Thursday that will decide the future of the CWM Chemical Services hazardous waste landfill in Niagara County – a burial ground for some of the nastiest industrial garbage collected from across North America.
The board is expected to decide in late 2015.
CWM’s existing landfill, which has operated since the mid-1990s, is running out of space, so the company wants to build a new one occupying about 44 acres. The proposal for a new landfill with a capacity of about 4 million cubic yards would extend CWM’s ability to accept hazardous wastes for another 20 years or so. It’s proposed just west of its current landfill on a site in the towns of Lewiston and Porter.
Appointed as members to the eight-member siting board by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo are:
• Lee Simonson, a Lewiston business owner and former chairman of the Niagara County Legislature.
• John Benoit, of Lockport, a retired manager from Delphi Thermal Systems and current chairman of the Niagara USA Chamber.
• A. Scott Weber, of Getzville, senior vice provost for academic affairs at the University at Buffalo who holds a Ph.D. in civil engineering.
Besides Simonson, Benoit and Weber, five others are appointed to the board by the state commissioners of transportation, environmental conservation, health, commerce and secretary of state. Those appointees have yet to be tapped, said Peter Constantakes, spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
The gloves came off quickly in this latest battle in a decades-long struggle between the company and its critics as Benoit’s appointment came under immediate fire Thursday.
“For the governor to pick John Benoit to fairly represent this community is horrifying,” said Amy Witryol, a concerned Lewiston resident and long-time vocal critic of CWM. Witryol alleges Benoit’s ties to county Republican leadership who have received contributions from CWM, not to mention the chamber’s openly public advocacy for the company, should disqualify him from service.
“I’m asking John Benoit to voluntarily step down,” said Witryol. “If John Benoit won’t remove himself from the siting board, the governor should,” she said.
Neither Benoit nor Lori Caso, spokeswoman for CWM, could be reached Thursday evening for comment about the appointment.
The ball for CWM’s new landfill got rolling again May 7 when the DEC declared the company’s application complete. That day, it began accepting public comments on the proposed landfill, which some people call a hazardous waste dump. CWM’s initial application was filed in April 2003, but a series of delays in permitting and the state’s hazardous waste siting plan delayed the process.
In its 2010 Hazardous Waste Facility Siting Plan the DEC developed to guide decisions on siting new or expanded hazardous waste facilities, the agency stated “there is no need for additional hazardous waste management facilities or expanded hazardous wage management capacity in New York.” The plan cited a federal estimate that sufficient capacity exists nationally through 2034.
Those on both sides of the issue will have time to let the DEC and the siting board know their feelings. The public comment period is scheduled to remain open until July 7. Sometime before then, a joint public hearing including the DEC and siting board will be held. That date hasn’t been announced.