Landfill neighbors hire attorney

By Janice L. Habuda



City of Tonawanda residents living near a landfill contaminated with radioactive wastes have retained a prominent attorney to ensure their interests are represented in its closure.

Richard J. Lippes, an environmental attorney, is scheduled to attend a news conference Friday by C.U.R.E. [Clean Up Riverview’s Environment].

Some backyards along Hackett Drive in the City of Tonawanda border the Town of Tonawanda landfill, where radioactive materials generated by nuclear weapons research during and after World War II were dumped. While previous testing hasn’t indicated migration beyond the landfill, residents want additional studies before the site is capped by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Last month, the state Department of Environmental Conservation began shallow testing of some Hackett Drive properties, as well as the playground of Riverview Elementary School. The process includes DEC staff carrying radiation-detection instruments and, if deemed necessary, soil testing.

"To do a walkover . . . is a good step, but it really doesn’t compare with the information they found on the site behind us," said Chris Thomas, a cohead of C.U.R.E.

What do residents think Lippes can accomplish?

"At this point, they have not done enough to take us seriously," Thomas said of the governmental agencies. "We have to protect our families."

A new issue of concern for residents is the emergence of a "lake" in the landfill, thanks to an underground spring.

"It’s a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes," said Joyce Hogenkamp, another cohead of C.U.R.E.

The face of the neighborhood is changing, she said, with the addition of families with multiple children. "My concern is for those children," Hogenkamp said.

The DEC’s testing reportedly is continuing on the grounds of the elementary school. Once the process is complete, a DEC spokeswoman has said, written results will be issued within 30 days.

That time frame has prompted requests for the corps to extend its public comment period on the landfill cleanup and closure beyond June 26.

"At this time, no decision has been made on whether or not to extend the comment period," Bruce I. Sanders, a spokesman for the Buffalo District of the corps, said Wednesday.

"The Army corps must not shut the door on the comment period before all the facts are in," Sen. Charles E. Schumer, DNY, said Wednesday.

Copyright 2007 The Buffalo News