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Fifty thousand gallons of contaminated ground water that once flowed every day through sewers and into the Niagara River now is being contained, collected and treated at Occidental Chemical Corp.'s Durez Division plant in North Tonawanda.

"It's a major milestone in the remedial project," said plant manager Philip D. Becker.

The company has completed work on a trench that encircles the Walck Road plant designed to collect storm runoff and ground water contaminated by chemicals buried in 14 dump sites on the property.

The work marks an end to the first phase of a six-year, $10 million project under terms of a consent order with federal and state officials.

The crews soon will clean hundreds of feet of storm and sanitary sewers that lead from the plant to the Niagara River, Becker said. Both the sewer lines and a marshy area called the Pettit Creek flume along the river shore have been contaminated over the past few decades.

Occidental said 50 North Tonawanda professional firefighters have had eight hours of training in connection with the sewer work to ensure that they are prepared to deal with possible emergencies occuring as crews work in the sewer lines.

The project is scheduled to take about 18 months. Becker said residents who have questions or concerns about the project can call a state Department of Environmental Conservation hot line or plant co-ordinator Charles E. Noll. The DEC number is 1-800-339-5667; the plant number is 696-6000.

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