It should be no surprise that a meeting the other day on the expansion of the CWM Chemical Services hazardous waste landfill in Niagara County drew more than 300 angry residents of the Lewiston-Porter area.
They don’t want any expansion, and who can blame them? The dump already contains some of the most toxic waste in the Northeast, including material contaminated with PCBs, asbestos, heavy metals and who knows what else?
The landfill should never have been sited in a heavily populated area close to the Niagara River and Lake Ontario. The Lewiston-Porter schools are nearby and to allow CWM to expand would compound the original mistake. Western New York is trying to rebound after decades of decline. The landfill gives business another reason not to locate here.
Landfill opponents at the 4½-hour session at Lewiston-Porter High School spoke passionately to the state siting board. The eight-member board – five state officials and three local residents – will decide whether CWM receives its permit, but won’t act until after the Sept. 5 deadline for written comments to be received.
Not everyone is opposed to the landfill. Jeff Brylski, president of Teamsters Local 449 at CWM, told a News reporter that the facility is clearly needed, or the company wouldn’t spend $55 million on a project without any tax breaks or subsidies.
There does need to be a hazardous waste landfill. But Niagara County has been a dumping ground long enough, and receiving a relative pittance in return.
There should be an immediate effort to significantly increase the tipping fees. That would reduce the amount of waste coming to Niagara County, and provide an environmental fund that would attempt to do some good to balance the damage done by having the landfill in the Town of Porter.
Hazardous waste is trucked in from all parts of the country to the CWM facility, one of only eight such sites in the country certified to handle PCBs. The state may favor allowing the expansion as easier than finding an appropriate site, given that it is unlikely any town would step up to accept a new toxic waste dump. However, that is not an excuse to permit the continued dumping of hazardous waste in the wrong place.
The state must respond to the legitimate concerns about the health of residents and the safety of the environment.