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LOCKPORT – The state Health Department said Tuesday that even touching sediment from Eighteen Mile Creek could be hazardous to one’s health.

The department, along with the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, issued a draft public health assessment for the creek corridor in Lockport, which is a federal Superfund site. A public comment period on the document lasts until Sept. 30.

The core of the Superfund area is a 10.6-acre site between Clinton and Harwood streets.

“There are several locations within the corridor area where people can gain access to the waterway and potentially come into contact with contaminated sediments and fill,” the assessment said. “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has tried to limit access, but evidence suggests that people are still gaining access to contaminated areas.”

The warning applies especially at the old Flintkote plant on Mill Street in Lockport and across the creek in backyards at nine residential and vacant properties on Water Street, where high water floods the yards and contaminates them with cancer-causing PCBs and other pollutants, including lead, arsenic and chromium, emanating from the burned-out Flintkote plant across the creek.

The gutted former building materials plant, ruined in a 1971 fire, is slated for demolition by the EPA as soon as next year.

The EPA has agreed to buy out five families who live on Water Street and pay for relocation to new homes, a move that is expected to occur next year. In the meantime, the federal agency placed clean soil in the backyards as a temporary measure. A short distance upstream, at the City of Lockport’s Upson Park, which is built on an old industrial site, the Health Department concluded that there are contaminated soils in some areas that could be hazardous to human health “if people are touching these soils over a long period of time (years). The amount of contamination found in some areas is high enough to be a concern for individuals who may be working or playing in these areas.”

The creek carries the pollution from Lockport 13 miles to Lake Ontario. The Health Department reiterated its warning that no one should eat a fish caught anywhere in Eighteen Mile Creek because of the type and amount of chemical contaminants in the water.

“Anglers who want to enjoy the fun of fishing but who wish the avoid the concerns about eating contaminated fish from Eighteen Mile Creek may want to consider catch and release,” the Health Department document said.

The department issued a 63-page health assessment and a two-page summary. Both, along with a public comment form, are available on the state Health Department website at www.health.ny.gov/environmental/investigations/eighteenmile/index.htm.

“The public comment period helps DOH gather a broad range of comments and information to address community members’ concerns about the potential impact on health from the Eighteen Mile Creek site and then revise the draft public health assessment if necessary,” a Health Department spokesman said.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com