By Steve Trask
A request for a public hearing with the
Department of Environmental
Conservation may be the last chance
Tonawanda has to head off a project
that could result in more radon gases
being released on the city.
James M. Rauch, the technical editor for
FACTS For A Clean Tonawanda Site),
told members of the Tonawanda
General Environmental Control Board
that the request for a hearing on the
siphoning of gases to be used for a co-
generator plant in the Town of
Tonawanda was the best move the city
could have made.
Mr. Rauch spoke before the board for
two hours Tuesday night.
He and other environmental activists
contend that gases in the Browning-
Ferris Industries landfill are heavy in
radon and the government has allowed
the dangerous gases to be released into
"It is surprising how many people in this
area still don't know that radium used
for the first nuclear bombs was
produced and buried here in the 1940s,"
he said. "The site has gases, with
uranium at a concentration of .59
percent.. The federal government
requires that a minimum concentration
0f .05 percent needs a license."
Mr. Rauch said the Department of
Energy and Atomic Energy Commission
allowed the property to be transferred to
the Ashland Oil Company in 1960
without the proper permits.
"It was an illegal sale," he said. "The
land had ten times the concentration.
The agency violated its own law. Ever
since then, the government agencies
have been doing damage control to
lessen its liability."
BFI applied for a permit to drill for
methane gas in its landfill in the early
1990s and it was approved by the state
DEC. The process by which the gas is
released has a well going deep into the
landfill and closer to the source of the
According to Mr. Rauch, another
problem is the lack of monitoring the
site over the years has spread the
radiation site over a larger area.
"Originally, the site was 6,000 cubic
yards," he said. "But after years of
moving things around on site, weather
patterns and winds, the site is now
350,000 cubic yards."
Cost estimates just to have the dirt and
contaminated area contained have the
government spending $60 million. Mr.
Rauch is opposed to merely placing a
cap on the containment area.
"After 10 to 20 years, we would be right
back where it was," he said. "This area
is one of the worst for condition to
contain any wastes."
Mr. Rauch said the preferred area of
containment is the desert where the
land is stable and dry. It would cost
$200 million to move all of the nuclear
waste out of the Tonawanda landfill.
"Over the long haul, it is preferred," he
said. "right now, the site only has a cap
and nothing underneath it to contain it."