Properties near Tonawanda Landfill undergoing testing for radiation


Updated: 05/18/07 7:34 AM

Radioactive testing has been done at 10 properties in the City of Tonawanda, as well as the grounds of Riverview Elementary School, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Conservation said Thursday.

Tests on 20 remaining properties should be complete within the next two or so weeks, according to spokeswoman Maureen Wren. Written reports are expected a month after that.

The DEC agreed to conduct a radiation survey of properties - including homes on Hackett Drive - closest to areas of the Tonawanda Landfill where radioactive wastes are present. The landfill, in the northwest corner of the Town of Tonawanda, was a dumping ground for byproducts of nuclear weapons research during and after World War II.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers wants to cap the landfill, but residents and lawmakers are seeking additional medical and environmental studies before that happens.

In announcing the testing plan last month, the DEC omitted mention of the school grounds, which have been an area of community concern.

"It was originally part of the department's plans," Wren said Thursday.

In performing the tests, DEC staff carry radiation-detection instruments while walking across property. The instruments measure soil - up to a depth of 6 inches - for radiation levels beyond those that occur naturally.

Elevated radiation levels may mean soil tests.

While verbal reports are available immediately to homeowners present during the testing, all property owners will receive written reports within 30 days after it's concluded.

With the current timetable, results could come after the corps' deadline of June 26 for public comment on its landfill plan. The Tonawanda Common Council voted unanimously this week to seek a suspension of that deadline.

That shouldn't be a problem, corps spokesman Bruce Sanders said Thursday.

"I am not aware of any decision to extend it at this particular time," Sanders said. "But we do have well over a month to make that decision."

"I want to emphasize what [Lt.] Col. [John S.] Hurley has said all along," he said, referring to the corps' district commander. "The corps' position is that we are open to the fullest possible participation and comment, so I'm sure he will take any requests seriously."

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