As time draws near for the governor to consider a new law that could limit the potential locations of hazardous-waste facilities, hundreds came out for an annual open house Friday at CWM Chemical Services.
The event, which attracted more than 500 people in its first two hours, is part of the company's outreach effort, a spokeswoman said.
"We open up our doors and let folks visit," said Lori Caso, CWM manager of community and municipal affairs.
CWM, the Northeast's only active hazardous-waste landfill facility, may see its proposed expansion plans affected by a bill awaiting action by Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer.
Earlier this year, the State Legislature passed a bill that would require hazardous-waste landfill operators to demonstrate they have no potential to discharge into the Great Lakes system.
Spitzer would have 10 days to act on the bill once it arrives at his desk, a move slated to happen next Friday.
Former Gov. George E. Pataki vetoed the measure last year.
Visitors to the Balmer Road site Friday were offered tours of the facility and presentations on landfill technology and radiation.
CWM is on land formerly occupied by the federal government for use in weapons production. Portions of the site are currently the object of an investigation of chemical and radiological contamination by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Those visiting the landfill facility had varied opinions about the company's worth to the area.
Edmund H. Janiszewski, a Vietnam War veteran who lives in Youngstown, has been to CWM's annual open house more than once. He said he was exposed to Agent Orange during the war and opposes CWM's operation.
"This is about the only good thing they do for the community," Janiszewski said as he raised a free cup of ice cream he was given.
Cathy Neiswonger, of Ransomville, who has attended multiple open houses, said she had a negative view of what goes on at the facility before she visited. After taking tours of the facility, she said she was impressed with the technology on site.
"It's amazing all the things that they can do," Neiswonger said.
Several people picketed outside CWM, standing within the sight of a Niagara County sheriff's deputy outside the front gate, and questioned the intent of company officials.
"It's completely irresponsible," said April Fideli, president of the citizens group Residents for Responsible Government. "It's not a park." Caso said she believes most of those picketing have never visited the site.
"If they came on site and were informed," she said, "then they wouldn't be scared."