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Criminal charges were dropped Friday against a Gasport man arrested in June in connection with the illegal storage of hazardous materials at a Highland Avenue warehouse.

City Judge Mark Violante dismissed a felony count of unlawful possession of hazardous waste material against John Hashem, 55, of 7949 Slayton Settlement Road and sealed the court records.

According to a source, the dismissal was the result, in part, of the city's failure to provide proper sampling records to the court.

The stored pesticides and herbicides, which led to the arrest, have not been removed. A state Department of Environmental Conservation engineer said that work will be done next week.

Hashem was arrested by members of the city Police Department's Hazardous Materials Unit. They reported finding 50 55-gallon drums containing hazardous materials in a sprawling warehouse of the HDC Distribution Company at 3123 Highland Ave. Ownership of 29 barrels of Methoxychlor, an insecticide, were traced to the Town of Amherst following Hashem's arrest.

Eddie L. Palmore, president of the Niagara Improvement Association which waged an 18-month battle to have the materials moved, learned of the court action Friday evening. "The drums have not been removed and it appears they are taking more time than necessary," he said. "Not only is the immediate neighborhood threatened but there is danger of fumes being carried by fire to other areas."

Louis Violante, a DEC engineer, said the drums will be removed next week. Chemical Waste Services of Lewiston is handling the removal.

Violante attributed the delay to "required paperwork and approvals for shipping," noting each proposed shipment must be analyzed.

Shipping should occur Wednesday and could take three days to complete, according to DEC officials. Police Lt. Arthur Casilio said he plans to revisit the warehouse next Friday but noted that since the materials are contained, there is no hazard unless a fire occurs.

City officials said Hashem acquired the building from the city, but it was reclaimed when he did not pay the back taxes.

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