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PORTER – The state Department of Environmental Conservation announced Monday that the 60-day public comment period on an expansion proposal by CWM Chemical Services starts Wednesday.

The region’s only hazardous waste landfill is running out of space and is seeking state approval for a new 43.5-acre waste burial site, west of the existing one.

“Our air space is extremely limited right now,” CWM spokeswoman Lori Caso said. The current landfill, called RMU-1, was dug in 1995.

The new RMU-2 would hold 4 million cubic yards of waste and would last for 10 to 20 years, according to the DEC’s announcement. Caso said it might be stretched for long as 30 years, depending on demand.

Caso said, “This site is vital to cleanup efforts in New York State. Brownfield and remediation efforts rely on CWM for safe disposal of their hazardous wastes.”

According to state law, the eventual decision on the expansion is to be made by a state siting board to be appointed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

For opponents, who have been planning for more than a decade for a fight to stop hazardous waste disposal in Niagara County, Monday’s announcement was like a starter’s pistol.

“I urge all residents to write to the DEC and object to the project,” said Vincent Agnello, past president of Residents for Responsible Government, the county’s leading environmental group. “The DEC did say in its statewide siting report that there was enough national capacity for 40 years. There’s certainly no need for 4 million cubic yards of toxic waste to be driven through our community and past our schools.”

Niagara County and the Town of Lewiston, both of which are on record against the expansion, have retained Allegany environmental attorney Gary A. Abraham to help in the fight.

The county and the town have not signed a contract on future funding for the attorney’s legal fees, but County Attorney Claude A. Joerg said the $50,000 that Lewiston appropriated late last year has been spent, and the county has kicked in another $50,000 to keep Abraham working.

Joerg said he was authorized to spend the money by the original 2004 county resolution retaining Abraham, which Joerg said has never been repealed.

“He’s been working,” Joerg said of Abraham. “He’ll be making a presentation (during the comment period).” Abraham did not return a call seeking comment Monday.

Lewiston Councilman Alfonso M. Bax, who is a lawyer, said the Town Board voted March 18 to split the costs of Abraham’s services with the county, but the sides haven’t agreed on terms.

Joerg objected when Lewiston’s proposed text called for the county to pay $50,000, then the town to pay the same, with the county paying another $50,000 before the deal was to be renegotiated.

Bax said the provision for the county to pay more than the town was unintentional and could have been fixed easily. Joerg said Bax told him to simply cross out the offending paragraph, but Joerg said he prefers a different deal where the county and the town would alternate $50,000 payments until the CWM expansion issue is settled.

News Niagara Reporter Nancy Fischer contributed to this report. email: tprohaska@buffnews.com