The state's plan to fence the Pfohl Bros. dump in Cheektowaga is not enough to ensure the safety of area residents, veterans of other Western New York toxic waste battles told about 200 at a Saturday afternoon forum.
"The fence is only the first step," said Luella Kenny, a Love Canal analyst who lived one-tenth of a mile from Love Canal when contamination was discovered in the Niagara Falls neighborhood. "The fence is not going to do anything. You can't accept the situation at Pfohl Dump."
Mrs. Kenny was one of several speakers at the gathering on the Erie Community College North Campus in Amherst who advised those living near the old industrial and chemical landfill to step up the pressure. All warned the residents to force the state to find a way to seal the dump and make sure the chemicals found in the soil and water do not spread.
The state has found dioxin levels of 390 parts per billion in barrels on the site. Dioxin often is called the most toxic man-made chemical. Federal guidelines limit human exposure when levels exceed one part per billion.
"Finding 390 parts per billion of dioxin is more than 10 times what was found in my back yard," said Mrs. Kenny, who now lives on Grand Island. "Think about that. Should you be concerned about your children? Yes."
High levels of radioactivity also have been found in 70 different "hot spots" at the Pfohl Dump. Residents traditionally have fished and walked along Aero Lake adjacent to the landfill.
Marvin Resnikoff, a consultant with Radioactive Waste Management Consultants of New York City, also said more than a fence is needed to make the dump safe. After complaints from Cheektowaga residents, the state speeded plan to build a fence around the dump and Aero Lake near Transit Road and the Thruway. The fence is due to be completed within a few weeks.
Resnikoff stopped short of calling the dump posed an immediate health threat to residents but said it should be eligible for Superfund money for cleaning up toxic dumps.
Even though the extraordinarily high dioxin levels were found inside barrels, the chemical can travel through the soil and water. Resnikoff said he especially was concerned about Ellicott Creek, which floods an average of once every 20 years.
If the creek floods, the dioxins in the barrels will be swept into Ellicott Creek contaminating the water, Resnikoff said.
"A lot of those barrels there are completely rusted out," Resnikoff said. "The dioxin is eventually going to move."
The state conducted tests Dec. 12 on soil throughout the dump for dioxin and radioactivity, according to those at the forum. State officials said they will know the results of the readings within 90 days.
"The state may release results this Monday," Resnikoff said.
Mrs. Kenny told how her 7-year-old son, the only one born while she lived near Love Canal, developed kidney disease and died several months after the diagnosis.
"Our child played in our back yard, just like the children are doing in Pfohl Dump and Aero Lake," Mrs. Kenny said. "It was those little things that took his life and cut him down at such a very young age."
Many of the Cheektowaga residents at the forum said the information made them more afraid.
"I'm scared, and I'm angry," said Peggy Jones, 26, of Cheektowaga. Mrs. Jones said she lived across the street from the area identified as the dump for more than three years.
On Nov. 1, 1988, a state legislator came to her apartment and told her the area was being studied for the effects of toxic wastes. Her two young children used to play in the back yard. Her family often ate vegetables grown from her backyard garden.
She and her family moved 13 days later, she said.
"I'm much more concerned now than I was before," she said. "Why wasn't more information made available to us before?"
The forum was organized by Western New York Regional Environmentalists and Concerned Homeowners. Another meeting to determine strategy is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday in the Williamsville Village Library, 5571 Main St.