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LOCKPORT – Five families on Water Street in Lockport, promised a federally funded relocation because of contamination in Eighteen Mile Creek behind their homes, will remain in those homes until sometime next winter, EPA spokesman Michael Basile said Wednesday.

However, the EPA has readied a demolition effort on an abandoned building nearby, at 89 Mill St., which is to begin next week. After that building comes down, the EPA will begin work on tearing down the long-abandoned Flintkote plant at 300 Mill St.

Flintkote, a former building materials plant gutted by a fire in 1971, is blamed as the main source of cancer-causing PCBs that have contaminated the creek, turning the creek itself into a federal Superfund site.

That contamination floods into the backyards of six Water Street homes, one of which is no longer occupied, when the creek’s waters are high.

Mayor Anne E. McCaffrey said EPA officials she met with Tuesday told her that the temporary fill the EPA installed in the backyards last year was not a permanent solution.

Basile said relocation specialists from the Army Corps of Engineers met with the homeowners in late January to start the process of buying them out.

He said appraisals have been done by a company hired by the Corps of Engineers, but the homeowners won’t receive purchase figures until late summer or early fall.

“They’re now in the process of putting together the packages that will be given to those residents,” Basile said.

The figures “will help them make a decision on where they relocate to,” Basile said. “If they need help in relocating, the Army Corps of Engineers relocation specialists will do that. If they want to just find a place themselves, that will be entirely up to them. The game plan still is to have them relocated by February or March of 2015.”

Meanwhile, work on 89 Mill St., a large gutted three-story building which was once a 13,000-square-foot boiler house, will begin next week.

The property was purchased in 2010 by Liberty Plant Maintenance, a Texas company, but its plan to tear down the building and erect a neighborhood retail development was short-circuited by the state Labor Department because of asbestos in the building.

After a protracted legal fight that included $40,000 in City Court fines to Liberty for violations of the city sanitary code, the EPA took charge of the site in March 2012. That summer, the EPA fenced the site and sprayed material on the exposed asbestos to keep it from blowing around the neighborhood.

But not until three months ago did the EPA finally obtain sufficient legal access to get on with the demolition.

McCaffrey said the EPA assured her that double-lined Dumpsters will be used to hold and haul the debris, and work will stop and techniques will be adjusted if there is too much dust.

Basile said the shell of the brick building is stronger than it looks, so it might take three to six months to bring it down.

“It’s kind of a unique facility,” Basile said. “There’s a basement in there, and we really won’t know what’s in it until we finish the asbestos abatement above the ground and subsequently take those walls down.”

Basile said on-scene coordinator Terry Kish told him that in a best-case scenario, 89 Mill could be finished in 90 days. Whenever that is complete, the EPA will move on to Flintkote.

“We already have a work plan in place to bring down the Flintkote facility,” Basile said. “We had hoped to bring down Flintkote this year. Some of the work will probably begin in the fall, but the rest of the facility may not come down until the spring of 2015.”

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com