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Chemical contamination of soil and water at North Tonawanda's Gratwick-Riverside Park poses virtually no threat to public health, state officials said Thursday night.

The park currently is classified by the state as an "inactive toxic waste site."

State Department of Environmental Conservation officials made those statements in response to questions from an audience of about 25 persons at a hearing in North Tonawanda City Hall on an $18 million park cleanup plan proposed by the DEC.

A final determination on the remedial plan probably will be made by early February, said Christopher P. Allen of Albany, DEC section chief of the Bureau of Western Remedial Action.

Once a decision is made on a remedial plan, the DEC will negotiate with the City of North Tonawanda, Niagara Mohawk Power Corp., the actual owner of the city park site; the Durez Division of Occidental Chemical; Bell Aerospace, Division of Textron; Browning-Ferris Industries, and Booth Oil Co., identified by the DEC as former users of the parkland which was a dump in the 1960s.

The state's goal is to get those it claims responsible for the contamination to pay for the cleanup.

North Tonawanda Alderman Joseph F. Liberto of the Third Ward, in which the park is located, asked who will be responsible for an estimated $250,000 in annual park operation and maintenance costs for up to 30 years after the remedial work is completed.

Allen said that will depend on negotiations. He estimated that the remedial work could begin in early 1993 and take two years.

The DEC-favored cleanup plan calls for using 4,800 feet of steel sheet piling along the Niagara River park shoreline to prevent erosion and the draining of contaminants, the drilling of perhaps six or seven wells behind the breakwater to catch any backup of contaminated water and the piping of the well water into an on-site pretreatment plant.

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