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Residents concerned about effects from Niagara Lubricant fire

One woman said she felt her eyes and lungs burning from the smoke.

Another woman still can see residue built up on her home's siding.

Another can still smell the charred remnants inside her home.

Residents who live near the scene of a chemical fire at Niagara Lubricant that burned for 23 straight hours in mid-July brought their concerns about potential health effects and how the emergency was handled to city, state and federal officials on Monday night.

About 80 people attended a meeting in the American Legion Niagara Frontier Post No. 1041 on Amherst Street, where representatives of agencies, including the Buffalo Fire Department and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, were peppered with questions related to the well-being of those who breathed in the smoke.

"The bottom line, gentlemen, is that we want to be part of the decision-making here," Grote Street resident Karen Majerowski said. "We don't want to wait for an answer We want to be involved. We want a say in what goes on. Just not for us now, but in the future."

Niagara Lubricant on Chandler Street manufactured industrial oils, greases, lubricating oils and tire care products.

The cause of the blaze, which started at about 5 a.m. July 13, is still under investigation, fire officials said Monday.

Some residents raised concerns about the level of notification regarding the hazards of the fire to those living on the surrounding streets.

Grote Street resident Michelle Mazur asked why there was no phone call from the agencies, like there is from the Buffalo School District when school is closed.

Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield, who responded to a majority of the questions during the meeting, said his department is working on instituting a reverse-911 system, which would notify residents in the event of an emergency.

Whitfield also agreed that more work needs to be done in terms of communication between the agencies involved and the public.

"There's obviously is a disconnect between us and the larger community," Whitfield said.

The meeting was co-sponsored by the Clean Air Coalition of Western New York and the Buffalo Environmental Management Commission.

Representatives of the Erie County Department of Health, the county Department of Environment and Planning and the state Department of Health were invited, but did not attend the meeting.

Results of an air sample taken at 4 p.m. the day of the fire six blocks away by the Clean Air Coalition found elevated levels of Benzene, a carcinogen, the group reported.

email: abesecker@buffnews.com