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Length of fence around Wheatfield landfill to be reduced as research rebuts fears of radiation

WHEATFIELD – The length of a planned fence around a hazardous landfill off Nash Road will be less than expected, reducing the cost accordingly, Supervisor Robert B. Cliffe said at last week’s Town Board meeting.

Meanwhile, the developer of a planned residential subdivision that would extend to about a half-mile from the landfill provided The Buffalo News with a report that rebuts contentions by critics that there is radioactive waste on the site.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation has directed the town to put up a fence around the old Niagara Sanitation Co. landfill, which is near the North Tonawanda city line.

In December the DEC reclassified the site as a significant threat to public health. That was done so the state Superfund law could be used to pursue companies or their successors that disposed of waste there, in an effort to make them pay for a cleanup of the 18.7-acre landfill.

Cliffe said the DEC has informed him that the town doesn’t have to build a fence around the driveway leading to the landfill, just the dump itself. That saves 2,800 feet of fencing, Cliffe said, and the amount needed to get around the landfill will be about 4,400 feet.

At the meeting, the board awarded a $6,800 contract to the Wendel engineering firm: $5,000 to design the fence and $1,800 for a survey of the boundaries of the property. The DEC says the landfill covers most of a 20.8-acre parcel.

Niagara Sanitation closed in 1968, and the town ended up with ownership of the landfill. Last year, a contractor paid by Occidental Chemical Corp. removed some 1,600 cubic yards, or 80 truckloads, of Love Canal waste from the dump by order of the DEC. The waste was deposited there by crews from the state Department of Transportation in the summer of 1968, when the Love Canal site was disturbed during construction of the LaSalle Expressway.

State Sen. Robert G. Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, has lined up $75,000 in state funding to help pay for what is expected to be a 6-foot-high chain-link fence.

On the radiation question at the proposed subdivision, Bob Weaver, owner of Bob Weaver Motorsports, said he has a scientific report showing that the property is clean.

Weaver hired MJW Corp., of Amherst, to research the issue. Its on-site study, conducted March 8, used two radiation detectors to check readings at eight locations on the site of the proposed subdivision, which is to be built on former farmland, and compare them with background levels.

All the readings in the field showed radiation levels of 5 or 6 microrems per hour. “If someone was present at that location for 2,000 hours per year, the annual exposure would be 12 millirems,” the report said. There are 1,000 microrems in a millirem.

By contrast, government figures estimate that the average exposure to naturally occurring radiation is 310 millirems per year. In other words, the subdivision site has 25 times less radiation than the general environment.

The proposed 23-home subdivision is to be called Aubrey Way after the name of a new entrance road to be built into the site from Nash Road. In December and January, some local residents urged the Town Board to block the subdivision because of purported environmental risks. Weaver’s dealership sits in front of the parcel on the Niagara Falls Boulevard side of the property.