Residents plan to sue over landfill



Speaking above the hum of dump trucks and heavy equipment operating in the landfill behind them, a group of residents announced Friday that they intend to sue the Town of Tonawanda because of the landfill's impact on their lives.

"We are going to hold those accountable for what's going on in residents' backyards," said Rick D. Davis Jr., the 4th Ward councilman in the City of Tonawanda.

Davis was joined by environmental attorney Richard J. Lippes and fellow members of CURE (Clean Up Riverview's Environment) at a news conference in the backyard of a Hackett Drive home.

Several homes border the landfill, which contains radioactive materials like those generated by nuclear weapons research performed locally during and after World War II.

A monitoring well and a "no trespassing" sign is within feet of the fence line in Chris Thomas' yard, where the news conference was held. Beyond some trees and other vegetation are patches and mounds of dirt, which residents said regularly blows into the neighborhood - and this week settled on the bottom of Thomas' newly filled swimming pool.

Previous tests on landfill property concluded that health risks to humans were within acceptable limits, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers maintains that no remedial action is warranted. But residents want additional testing - at least on home sump pumps and core soil - before the site is capped.

Lippes said a notice of claim is being prepared, which will be served to the Tonawanda town clerk in coming weeks. He said approximately 40 families are represented.

Contacted for comment Friday afternoon, Town of Tonawanda Supervisor Ronald H. Moline said: "I usually don't comment on matters that are of a legal matter."

Lippes outlined the grounds for the lawsuit.

"It appears, from our preliminary investigation, that the Tonawanda Landfill site is an unlined landfill," he said.

"We know that there are nuclear materials above regulatory limits in the landfill itself . . . some of them very close to the backyards," Lippes continued. "We believe it's necessary for the state and federal governments to determine what may have left the landfill site."

"We also know, at this point, this landfill is significantly impacting the values of the homes in the neighborhood," Lippes said.

Further, he cited quality-oflife impacts, such as the odors generated by decaying wastes.

"For all of those reasons, we intend to sue the Town of Tonawanda," Lippes said. What remedy is sought?

"First of all, we want to compensate these residents for the conditions they have been living under," Lippes said. And, if the nuclear wastes have moved beyond the landfill and can be linked to residents' illnesses, "We will be suing because of the health injuries, as well."

Copyright 2007 The Buffalo News