YOUNGSTOWN – Local environmental activists said today that they need a big turnout at Wednesday’s public hearing on CWM Chemical Services’ application to dig a second hazardous waste landfill in Porter.
April Fideli, president of Residents for Responsible Government, the Lewiston-Porter area’s leading environmental group, said this is the only chance the public will have to impress the siting board, which Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo appointed to decide whether CWM will receive a permit for a new 43.5-acre landfill.
It would hold 4 million cubic yards of waste. CWM’s current landfill is approaching capacity, meaning the company would no longer be able to take waste if the permit is rejected.
“The time has come to close down CWM,” RRG member Timothy Henderson said at a news conference in Falkner Park in Youngstown.
“This has to be our best fight,” said Fideli, backed by local elected officials, “We ask you to get off your couch and fight for our beautiful community.”
CWM spokeswoman Lori Caso said the company has its supporters, too. CWM holds its annual open house today, which she said has averaged 600 attendees in recent years. She said she personally took more than 400 reservations for today’s event.
“We do it annually, and we normally have a crowd that large,” Caso said.
“All I’ve got to say is, onward to victory,” shouted Niagara County Legislature Chairman William L. Ross, C-Wheatfield, at the news conference. He said that every anti-CWM resolution and every request for money for legal help for the opposition to the new landfill has passed unanimously in the Legislature for the past 10 years.
State Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-Newfane, who has been criticized by local environmentalists, made a brief appearance. “I wanted to be here so you couldn’t distort my record,” he told Fideli when he arrived.
At the microphones, Maziarz said, “This is not the place for an expansion. We’ve had enough hazardous waste in this community and we are going to do all that we can to protect it. … It is vitally important that people show up at this public hearing on July 16.”
Fideli urged, “If you’ve never come out before and taken part in one of our hearings or done anything, now is the time. This is our most important fight. This is the time to get off your couch, change your plans and come to our hearing.”
The siting board is holding two sessions Wednesday, at 1 and 6:30 p.m. in Lewiston-Porter Senior High School on Creek Road. The written public comment period, already extended by the state Department of Environmental Conservation, lasts until Sept. 5.
The eight-member board, comprising five state agency representatives and three area residents chosen by Cuomo, has the job of scoring CWM’s application on 14 weighted criteria set by DEC regulations. If the score is under 200 points, CWM wins its permit. If the score is at or over 200, the company’s application is rejected.
Also speaking out against CWM at the news conference were Lewiston Supervisor Dennis J. Brochey Sr. and Councilmen William C. Conrad and Alfonso M. Bax.
The CWM site is actually in Porter, but that town’s officials are prohibited from agitating against CWM by terms of a 2001 host community agreement under which CWM paid Porter $3 million for a rezoning of the new landfill site, along with a pledge to pay $3 per ton of waste dumped in the new landfill.
In addition, CWM pays the towns of Lewiston and Porter, and the Lew-Port, Wilson and Niagara-Wheatfield school districts a 6 percent gross receipts tax each year. The towns each receive one-third of the total, with the schools dividing the remainder based on their shares of the districts’ total enrollments.
The towns have received more than $1.6 million each over the last seven years, but CWM’s payments for business in 2013 fell 54 percent from the previous year.
Henderson said, “The fiscal health of local municipalities needs to dry out from their chemical addiction to shrinking annual CWM donations.”