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TOWN OF NIAGARA – The state Department of Environmental Conservation said Wednesday that its testing shows a cleanup is needed at the site of the former Sabre Park mobile home community, slated to be the site of a planned expansion of Fashion Outlets of Niagara.

The DEC said nonradioactive slag was found on the site, along with organic compounds, PCBs and heavy metals in fill material. There was also chromium in four groundwater samples and one soil test location.

The DEC said it plans an expedited cleanup, so as not to get in the way of the mall’s project. About 8,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil will be hauled away, with the agency counting on the new building and its parking lot to serve as a cap to prevent human contact with other contaminants. Three storm water retention ponds are to be dug, with a million gallons of ground water to be removed during construction.

Work is expected to start this month and take about a year.

Mark J. Gabriele, attorney for the town Industrial Development Agency, said that he doesn’t think the environmental work will delay the mall expansion.

“The company found this after they acquired the property and took the action to be accepted into the Brownfields Cleanup Program,” Gabriele said. “The acceptance into the program is good news and will not do anything to delay the IDA action. We have dealt with other such projects, mainly industrial. Upon their completion of the cleanup, they are eligible to receive certain federal [tax] credits for the remediation.”

In February, Fashion Outlets proposed a 50-store, 230,000-square-foot expansion to cost $71 million, and sought a 15-year tax break from the town IDA. The expansion is to include about 170,000 square feet of leasable space and 1,150 new parking spaces.

The IDA has not acted because the Town Board has yet to approve the site plan.

The owners of Fashion Outlets control 48.6 acres for the expansion, including Sabre Park, which was 34 acres.

The Sabre Park property was owned by Union Carbide Corp. from 1949 to 1969. The mobile home park was built in 1972. During an expansion at Sabre Park in 1978, fill containing chlorinated solvents, mercury and heating oil was found and removed by Hooker Chemical Co., according to the DEC.

However, further Sabre Park soil sampling in 1986 and 1988 showed elevated levels of mercury remained in the soil.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency excavated about 1,200 cubic yards of mercury-contaminated fill in 1989.

Other parts of the mall expansion site, which were never part of the trailer park, also received contaminated fill, the DEC said. Volatile organic compounds were found during construction of a storm sewer in 1985.

In 1994, 12,879 tons of contaminated materials and 7,300 gallons of water were removed from the site.

In 1994, during a mall expansion, a white powder, which turned out to be vinyl chloride, was dug up, and 3,037 cubic yards were hauled away.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com