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RESIDENTS OF CONTAMINATED AREA PRESS FOR RELOCATION

Tina Hovey doesn't want to be a "long-term guinea pig."

She and other Hickory Woods homeowners want the city to relocate them. The city maintains that contamination in the neighborhood poses no immediate health risk.

What about the long-term risk? She asked city officials that question during a public hearing Thursday night in City Hall.

"The reality is, we'll never know which back yards are clean, relatively clean or seriously contaminated," Hovey told a crowd of about 140 people.

The demand for a permanent relocation was repeated over and over again as the only fair solution for families who bought homes in Hickory Woods, a subdivision in South Buffalo.

The city developed the housing in Hickory Woods, a neighborhood contaminated with coke waste, and then used cash subsidies to entice new home buyers.

Dozens of homeowners showed up Thursday night carrying small red flags, a symbol of the numerous warnings the city had received about the contamination. "This city mismanaged this project . . . and we're left holding the bag," said Rick Ammerman of the Hickory Woods Homeowners Association.

Richard Lippes, a lawyer for about 40 homeowners, said the city should act now instead of waiting for the problems to worsen.

"I've seen it happen time and time again," Lippes said. "Ultimately the city will relocate these people, but it should be done now."

Homeowners gained one ally in Council Member at Large Charley H. Fisher III, who said the city should move quickly toward a relocation plan for all interested homeowners.

"A relocation is in order and no later than April 30," Fisher told the crowd.

Homeowners are waiting for a state Health Department report on risks associated with the contamination but learned that it has been delayed for two months.

Cameron O'Connor, the state's regional toxics coordinator, said the department did not get the latest set of test results from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency until December.

In May, the EPA took soil samples from about 80 homes and vacant lots at Hickory Woods. The tests revealed high levels of lead and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, a common byproduct of coal, ash and oil.

In addition, tests conducted by the city have shown even higher levels in five vacant lots in the neighborhood.

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