by Don Finch

According to material obtained by F.A.C.T.S. through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request recently, there are 29 sites (anomalies) in the Town of Tonawanda with radiation exposure rates higher than typical background levels.

In September, 1979 a low altitude helicopter radiological survey was performed (Report WAMD008). This survey was only one of many surveys and reports conducted by the DOE.

This information was contained in a letter sent by then Chairman of the Town of Tonawanda Commission for Conservation of the Environment, George B. Melrose on July 22, 1980 addressed to Dr. John M. Matuszek, New York State Department of Health.

Following are directly quoted excerpts from this letter: . . ."The WAMD008 report identifies 29 sites (anomolies) [sic] in the Town of Tonawanda with radiation exposure rates higher than typical background levels. Four of these sites are identified as being MED/AEC (1) origin as follows:

I Linde former uranium refinery
II Seaway Industrial Park
III Ashland Oil Property - south of Seaway
IV Ashland Oil Property - north of Seaway (discovered by the Sept. 1979 helicopter survey).

The remaining 25 sites appear to be non-MED/AEC related and it has been conjectured that 24 result from the presence of slag produced from the phosphorous refining operations of an electrochemical company (Oldbury) which operated between approximately 1896 and 1950. The slag was apparently considered to be a harmless by-product and many tons were disposed of over a wide area and used for landfill, paving material, etc. (emphasis added).

The remaining site is at the NMPC (2) Huntly (sic) Plant and relates to radioactive material residue in the coal fly ash waste. The three sites showing the highest radioactive emission exposure rates, of the none-MED/AEC sites are as follows:

1. Sheridan Twin Drive-In Theater site (3)
2. Lot at 750 Ontario Street near Military Road (4)
3. NMPC Fly Ash Disposal Site" . . .

Further along, the letter then goes on to ask the following five questions:
"1. Is there any present health or safety hazard to occupants or workers? If so, please identify needed remedial action.
2. If the use of the sites were changed by, for example, excavation and building of a dwelling, is there a possibility of presently buried material causing a hazard? Any problem if material was removed (without surveillance or control) and deposited at another location?
3. Do you feel any control measures are desirable such as a statement on property deeds, or notification of DOH5 regarding any anticipated change of use, demolition, excavation, or other measures?
4. To what extent has DOH conducted surface and sub-surface investigation of sites within the Town? Do you have knowledge of any investigations by others?
5. What future actions are planned by DOH or others relative to this matter?"

The contents of this letter leads one to wonder how those folks with the 'it's not in my backyard, so what do I care' syndrome feel now? Of the 29 sites only 7 have been identified. What about the other 22 sites (or is it 21 if we consider the Town of Tonawanda Landfill which has recently been added to the DOE's site cleanup program)?

NIMBY (short for 'not in my backyard') is usually applied to those who don't want health- threatening materials sited near their homes. What is apparently needed now is another (new) acronym OMGIIIMB (5)

Do local residents have the right to know just where the rest of these radioactively contaminated sites are located? Or is it the latest fad to stick our heads in the sand, hoping the whole problem will just go away of its own accord? This does seem to be what many people are doing when it comes to the Linde/Praxair/Union Carbide Corporation legacy.

Another very important point that has been overlooked in this whole ionizing radiation scenario:

What of the young people who are/were exposed to this specter and then later got married and raised a family? Was genetic damage done to the DNA structure of the newly formed embryo leading to children being born mentally and or physically challenged? For these poor children it's too late. But are we as full grown, aware adult human beings going to have compassion in our hearts to do something now or just sit back and let the future generations take care of the problem?

See here for a  Detailed description of the 29 sites


NOTE: Footnotes added by editor:

(1) Manhattan Engineer District/Atomic Energy Commission. Commonly known as 'Manhattan Project' the super-secret program set up to develop the world's first atomic bomb.
(2) Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation (commonly known as NiMo).
(3) The Sheridan Drive-In Theater was located in the area of where Ensminger Road terminates at its west end (next to the Youngmann Highway).
(4) 750 Ontario is the present location of Colden Enterprises.
(5) OMGIIIMB = Oh My Gosh, It Is In My Backyard!

ED. note: F.A.C.T.S. is very busy just with researching the DOE's and others erratic actions concerning what is to be done concerning the left over Manhattan Project contamination. Now that this information has been brought out into the open air, are there any residents who just might be a little bit concerned? Outside of those who regularly attend the meetings and voice their concerns? If so, we'd like to hear from you.

A complete copy of this letter is available to anyone requesting it. Just send a SASE to us and we'll send you a copy.