LOCKPORT – The Niagara County Legislature called on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers last week to decide by June 30 how to clean up the site that holds nuclear waste from the World War II atomic bomb project.
Three words in reply from the Corps: Not gonna happen.
Project manager John Busse said the Corps is still in the feasibility study phase of how to deal with the Niagara Falls Storage Site at the old Lake Ontario Ordnance Works off Balmer Road in Porter, where the radioactive remnants of the Manhattan Project have lain buried beneath 10 feet of clay since 1986.
The storage site was created to gather the waste from atomic research and production that was disposed at the former explosives plant.
Busse said five alternatives are being considered, ranging from leaving things as they are to a complete removal of the waste, with three cleanup options in between. The study won’t be done until the fall of this year or next winter.
After a plan is proposed, there will be a public comment period before the Corps issues a decision, Busse said. Then comes the design of the option and more comments before the go-ahead for actual work.
In summary, that cleanup work is at least two years away, if not more.
“The interim waste containment structure is functioning as designed,” Corps public affairs officer Bruce Sanders said.
He said the site is not leaking and was designed to last 25 to 50 years.
Legislature Chairman William L. Ross, C-Wheatfield, and Vice Chairman Clyde L. Burmaster, R-Ransomville, charged that the Corps gave itself 10 years to make a decision on what to do with the waste buried at the storage site and has missed that deadline.
Also last week, the Legislature became the first in the state to condemn Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s proposal last Sunday to provide free college courses to state prison inmates.
The Legislature declared unanimously that “the purpose of prison is to punish those who have engaged in behavior that is morally and legally wrong.”
It criticized Cuomo for proposing to provide “this deranged segment of society with taxpayer-funded college tuition, a benefit unavailable to the children of the productive, law-abiding taxpayers who will be forced to finance Mr. Cuomo’s scheme.”
The the cost of the project, estimated by Cuomo at $5,000 per inmate, is “an obscene sum when contemplated as a reward for society’s worst members,” the Legislature stated.
The Legislature, for the second consecutive year, also demanded that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver allow a vote on a GOP Senate bill that would restrict how welfare clients could spend their benefits.
The bill would ban the use of the state’s Electronic Benefit Transfer cards at bars, liquor stores, strip clubs, casinos and other venues the bill’s sponsors deem inappropriate.
Passing this measure, said Majority Leader Richard E. Updegrove, R-Lockport, “is so easy it’s almost uncomfortable. It’s like T-ball.”
Lawmakers also voted to renew a county property tax exemption for the land beneath which the City of Lockport’s raw water supply line runs. The 13-mile pipe extends from the Niagara River at North Tonawanda and runs through the towns of Wheatfield, Pendleton and Lockport to reach the City of Lockport. Only the Town of Lockport declines to tax the city for the land.
The county exemption saves the city about $50,000 a year, Updegrove said.
The Legislature also voted to allow the transfer to the Town of Lockport of a 120-by-200-foot vacant lot on Old Saunders Settlement Road, where the town paid to demolish an abandoned house. The county had taken title to the lot in a tax foreclosure action. The town will be allowed to sell it to a private purchaser if it wishes.