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Source: The Buffalo News

Speakers implore DEC to reject proposal by CWM that would expand waste site


Posted: January 23, 2009
Originally Published: January 22, 2009

LEWISTON — One by one, they marched to the microphone in the Lewiston-Porter High School auditorium.

And one by one, they railed at a hazardous waste landfill operator for asking for more space to bury toxic materials, and then at state regulators for what they perceived as the agency’s willingness to continue to treat Niagara County as a dumping ground.

They were the people who spoke Wednesday during two public sessions aimed at gathering input on a proposal by the Northeast’s only commercial hazardous waste landfill, CWM Chemical Services. The company wants to redesign a landfill cap, which would give it another year’s worth of capacity.

In addition to the company, speakers were highly critical of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the agency responsible for deciding whether the company will be granted permission to make the change.

For many, the scene — a gathering of environmentally concerned residents walking up to a microphone in the school, which waste-hauling trucks drive by on a daily basis — was all too familiar.

“Well, here we are another night at the Lew-Port school begging our government to obey their laws that were meant to protect the health and safety of our families and friends,” said Niagara County Legislator Clyde Burmaster, R-Ransomville.

In all, 25 speakers called on regulators to rule against the proposal. Any other action by the agency, they said, could violate environmental law.

CWM wants the state’s permission to install a thinner cap on its Town of Porter landfill.

The proposal would allow the company the opportunity to bury an extra 2 1/2 feet of waste in the open portions of its active, 47- acre landfill while not rising beyond the current height restrictions.

The company has said the design change, which is used on hazardous waste landfills elsewhere in the country, is technologically superior and provides more environmental protection.

But critics contend the company’s proposal was an expansion effort disguised as a mere planned landfill cap change.

Representatives of several groups, including the Buffalo- Niagara Association of Realtors, the Tuscarora Environment Office, the Atlantic Chapter of the Sierra Club and Citizens Campaign for the Environment, urged regulators to reject the plan.

Many residents from the Lewiston, Porter and Youngstown area were among the speakers. Some pointed to the numerous operating violations CWM has been cited for by the state. Others called on Gov. David A. Paterson to take action to protect the community.

“If the DEC cares about the health and welfare of the children and adults in this area,” said Charles Lamb of Youngstown, “then please help us by refusing to let this modification that results in a much greater capacity and a longer life for the facility and many more trucks passing the school [move forward].”

Although none of the day’s speakers spoke in support of the company, CWM spokeswoman Lori Caso said a number of engineers have submitted written comments to the DEC supporting its proposal.

Caso provided copies of two of the letters — one was written by Robert M. Koerner, director of the Geosynthetic Institute at Drexel University; the other came from Buffalo engineer John E. Banaszak, whose wife, Jill, works at CWM.

From the regulators’ point of view, spokeswoman Megan Gollwitzer said, “[The] DEC has invited public comment on this issue and is grateful for the time that people have take to come out and share their thoughts.”