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CWM siting board wants to hear more about radioactive soil

PORTER – A decision on whether CWM Chemical Services will be allowed to dig a new 43.5-acre hazardous waste landfill still seems far away.

This week, the state siting board issued an interim ruling, asking for more information about the possibility that radioactivity from the World War II atomic bomb waste buried near CWM could be released during excavation of a new 12-foot-deep landfill.

The board concluded that CWM’s plan to have the dirt scanned for radiation only after it’s dug up might be insufficient, and wants to hear more about it in the board’s formal “adjudicatory hearing” on contested issues in the application.

However, that hearing still has not been scheduled, according to Michael S. Caruso, the board’s counsel.

The siting board, comprising five state officials and three local residents, eventually will make a recommendation on whether CWM, which operates New York State’s only licensed toxic landfill, will be allowed to dig another one next to it. The old one ran out of space last year. Commissioner Basil Seggos of the state Department of Environmental Conservation must approve or reject the board’s rulings.

Gary A. Abraham, an Allegany attorney retained by Niagara County, the Town of Lewiston and the Village of Youngstown to fight the project, said he was pleased with this week’s news from the siting board, because he and his clients regard the excavation as unsafe.

He called it “a common-sense decision to require more information about radiation risk to the community should CWM be allowed to dig up massive amounts of potentially radiologically contaminated soil.”

“We are pleased to see the process moving forward and are confident that the remaining siting issues will be resolved,” said Lori A. Caso, spokeswoman for CWM. “We recognize that this is a long and arduous process.”

The board held an issues conference in Youngstown at the end of April 2015, but Daniel P. O’Connell, a DEC administrative law judge, didn’t rule on the admissible topics until December. The parties to the case still are wrangling over appeals from his decisions.

The siting board’s 20-page interim decision, released Tuesday, made it clear that the board feels it can consider all topics in making its final recommendation on the new landfill permit, not just those that are contested at the formal hearing.

Besides the radiation issue, the hearing is expected to include scientific debate on the question of which way the groundwater flows beneath the landfill. Opponents contend it flows toward the Niagara River, which is a couple of miles from the landfill site, increasing the risk of toxic pollution in the Great Lakes from any leak in the landfill.

There are other angles opponents can use to try to block the project, including the water discharge and air handling permits CWM needs to operate a landfill.

The DEC earlier this year withdrew a planned water discharge permit after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in effect vetoed it. No revised version has been issued. The proposed air permit governs controls on dust, which opponents say could be radioactive, from landfill construction and operations.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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