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LOCKPORT – An asbestos-packed shell of a former industrial building began to come down Wednesday under the command of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Demolition began at 89 Mill St., a three-story brick building erected around 1920 as a power and steam generating station for the paper mills and related industries in the Lowertown district.

One of them, the former Flintkote building materials plant across the street, is next on the EPA’s demolition list.

It’s blamed for the PCB contamination that resulted in the entire Eighteen Mile Creek corridor being declared a federal Superfund site. When the creek runs high, PCBs believed to emanate from Flintkote, which was gutted in a fire 43 years ago, wash into the backyards of homes along the creek.

The EPA agreed last year to buy the homes of five residents of Water Street, across the creek from Flintkote, and the residents are to be relocated next year.

Terry Kish, the EPA official in charge of the Mill Street work, said trees and vegetation will be removed from the Flintkote site this fall, and a fence will be relocated, leading up to possible demolition next year,

But tearing down 89 Mill is the first thing on the agenda.

It is owned by Liberty Plant Maintenance, a Texas company owned by a Dunkirk native, Scott J. Krzyzanowski. He bought it in 2010 and planned to tear the building down and replace it with a small retail development.

He did clear brush and trees from the site, but his demolition plans were stopped in September 2010 by the state Labor Department, which demanded an asbestos assessment of the building first. Krzyzanowski refused to pay for it, and the project was halted.

His company was hauled into city Housing Court for building code violations. In June 2013, Judge Thomas M. DiMillo fined Liberty $40,000. Court officials said a civil judgment was entered against Liberty, meaning the fine hasn’t been paid.

EPA spokesman Michael Basile said Krzyzanowski didn’t agree to grant the EPA access to the property until April.

The demolition project is to cost about $500,000. “I’m sure we’re going after him for reimbursement,” Basile said.

The demolition is being done by a Lockport company, Titanium Demolition & Remediation, which was hired as a subcontractor by Environmental Restoration, a national firm selected by the EPA.

Mark Bellis, the EPA’s on-scene coordinator, said it will take two or three weeks to bring the building down. Metal, including an old boiler and hopper in the rear, will be cleaned and sold at a salvage yard to help cover the cost of demolition. The bricks will be used as fill if they are not contaminated.

Asbestos-containing material is to be hauled to a landfill in Ontario County for disposal, Kish said, adding that debris on the building’s floors, including lumps of asbestos, was swept into containers last week by a remote-controlled machine.

After the building comes down, workers will clean debris from the basement. “It looks like there’s a lot of piping and asbestos down there,” Kish said.

A dumpster that Krzyzanowski left behind on the site was placed into a larger dumpster, covered and doubled-lined. It, too, is headed for the Ontario County landfill, Kish said. The dumpster contained mostly wood, but there was a small amount of asbestos, Kish said.

As the large demolition machines snapped their metal jaws into the building, workers sprayed the building with water to keep down the dust, which may contain asbestos. Workers wore respirators, and six air-monitoring stations were set up around the site.

“As long as we keep it wet, then the asbestos fibers stay in place,” Kish said. Work is to be halted if the air becomes too dusty.

No real-time monitoring of asbestos in the air is possible, Kish said, but daily air samples will be tested in a lab.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com