The entire Pfohl Bros. dump should be fenced, there should be faster public disclosure of chemical and health testing results and the federal government should take over the cleanup because of the enormous cost, two state legislators said Wednesday.
"Our most basic concern is that residents have not been provided with all of the information necessary to make informed decisions regarding their own health and the health of their children," Assemblyman Paul A. Tokasz, D-Cheektowaga, and State Sen. John B. Sheffer II, R-Williamsville, wrote.
They asked State Environmental Commissioner Thomas C. Jorling to "be more direct in responding to residents queries concerning contamination at Pfohl dump."
Concern about the 73-acre dump has increased with disclosure that the Department of Environmental Conservation has found high levels of dioxin on the site. The levels are 390 times the federal action level for emergency measures to prevent human exposure. There is also evidence of low-level radioactive soils on the site, located on both sides of Aero Drive in Cheektowaga.
A contractor is scheduled to start erecting 13,000 feet of fence next week barring access to portions of the site, but the legislators want the entire site fenced, including Aero Lake adjacent to the toxic dump site. The 6-foot fence will be topped with barbed wire.
"We think the fence will prevent someone unaware that it is a toxic site from entering the area," said Robert W. Schick, a DEC engineer overseeing work on the site. "There are natural barriers, a stream on one side and a swale on the other."
But Regional DEC Director John J. Spagnoli said even fences can be breached.
"There is no way we can keep some people out. We've been told by some persons that we can put up any kind of a fence we want, but they will fish in Aero Lake anyway."
Tokasz and Sheffer said their aides have seen children riding bikes along a railroad right of way along the southwestern corner of the site and they want it fenced.
Edward Bellmore, DEC's chief of Western Regional Remediation programs, said work on the Pfohl site "has my highest priority." But he admitted a level of frustration "because the more we get into the site, the more we find."
Bellmore said the DEC expects to complete its remedial investigation by midyear, but said it will take another 12 months beyond that for a cleanup or containment plan.
Spagnoli said DEC maintains close contact with the nine or so families whose homes are close to the dump. In addition, he said the state has an aggressive community participation plan and regularly mails new information as it becomes available to 115 persons on its mailing list.
In response to legislators' questions about calling for a moratorium on construction near the site, Spagnoli said unless and until the department has information that contamination has spread beyond the site any ban on building would exceed its authority.
State health officials surveyed homes and businesses in the area and said none within three quarters of a mile of the site uses well water for drinking.
Spagnoli said fish from Aero Lake were tested once but only analyzed for conventional pollutants. He said DEC's Fish and Wildlife Division plans new testing this spring and will be checked specifically for chemicals that were dumped at Pfohl Bros.
The legislators asked for earlier release of a health risk assessment due in October, but both Bellmore and Spagnoli said such information must be thoroughly checked to make certain of its accuracy. Spagnoli added "we've gotten bad data before, it was wrong, we released it and live to regret it."