By Jacob H. Zoghlin, Esq.
Earlier this year, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (the “DEC”) presented the results of a comprehensive environmental investigation of the Niagara Sanitation Landfill near North Tonawanda, New York1. The Landfill had accepted a variety of waste from the surrounding community over the course of its operation from 1955-1968, including soils contaminated from construction of the LaSalle Expressway and from Love Canal waste.
When the DEC and the New York State Department of Health investigated the Landfill in the 1980s and 1990s, they initially determined that it did not pose a significant threat to public health or the environment. However, DEC re-evaluated the area in 2013, and discovered that on-site areas of exposed waste and elevated contamination levels were present. This caused the Landfill to be reclassified as a Class 2 Superfund site in December 2015.
As a result of the reclassification, a full comprehensive remedial investigation was required. Occidental (previously Hooker Chemical) then entered into a consent order with the DEC, voluntarily removed the Love Canal-related waste in 2014 and 2015 and disposed of it at an approved facility.
Despite these findings, the DEC assured nearby residents that “there is no migration of contamination from the landfill adversely impacting surrounding properties.”
However, after some nearby residents’ homes tested positive for hazardous chemical materials, a group of citizens sued the Town of Wheatfield. Their lawsuit alleges that contaminated water from the site — containing arsenic, barium, lead, and mercury — migrated onto adjacent properties and into the sewer system, causing health issues for the residents.
Stories such as these demonstrate the importance of ensuring that hazardous materials are disposed of properly, and the significant problems that can result if proper steps are not taken.
1 See “DEC Presents Niagara Sanitation Landfill Results,” By David Yarger, Tribune, WNYPapers, April 4, 2019, available at https://www.wnypapers.com/news/article/current/2019/04/04/136591/dec-presents-niagara-sanitation-landfill-results.
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