Community silent on landfill

By Dan Miner

The Tonawanda News


Despite several turbulent meetings and widespread concern from City of Tonawanda residents about a nearby landfill, only about 10 have bothered to submit comments to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

"That is sad," City of Tonawanda Councilman Rick Davis said. "I know I sent one."

The Army Corps is testing the landfill, which is owned by the Town of Tonawanda, to see if radioactive materials left there from the Manhattan Project are at dangerous levels. So far they've determined they are not.

But the final decision on whether to remove the materials is based in part on input during the current public comment period - which was extended from 30 days to 120 to accommodate residents and local officials.

"There are far fewer than we would have expected based on the public meetings we held," Army Corps Public Affairs Officer Bruce Sanders said. The comment period is set to expire July 25.

In other landfill news, analysis of tests conducted by the state Department of Environmental Conservation on the property of residents living near the landfill have begun to be finalized, and so far the news is good. Thirty-four property owners have been notified by the DEC of the results from their property.

"To date there's been no indication of radiation of any kind from non-natural sources," said Maureen Wren, a DEC spokeswoman based in Albany. "Analysis of some results is still ongoing."

But Davis said the results don't tell the whole story.

"That doesn't surprise me if they're only going down six inches in the soil," Davis said. "The landfill sits on a natural spring which goes under people's properties on Hackett Drive (adjacent to the landfill). These people have sump pumps, and in some cases living spaces, in their basements.

"They should be taking core samples in these people's yard to get accurate results."

Meanwhile, DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis was in Western New York on Thursday with state Sen. Antoine Thompson for a whirlwind tour of sites of environmental concern in the region. He briefly stopped at Casper Hoffmann's Hackett Drive home. Hoffmann, Davis and other members of Clean Up Riverview's Environment, the grass-roots organization zealously pursuing removal of the landfill's radioactive materials were present - but they didn't get much face time.

Grannis and Thompson looked at pictures taken by Hoffmann, walked out back to view construction by EnSol Inc., the company hired by the town to help cap the landfill for good, and promptly left, according to Davis. The entire process took 10 minutes.

"It's something I wasn't too happy about," Davis said. "Instead of getting all the players involved and sitting down, it was a political photo op and political move and then time to move out."

Copyright 2007, Tonawanda News