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TAINTED TRACT FORCES COUNTY TO LOOK ANEW GENESEE NEEDS SITE FOR JOINT COURT FACILITY

The Genesee County Legislature's Ways and Means Committee Wednesday night recommended that the proposed site of a $6.2 million courthouse and other county facilities be abandoned because of contamination by arsenic, lead and other toxic metals.

The committee will ask the Legislature to seek other sites.

A study showed copper, lead and zinc on the 12-acre Evans Street site, on which the county had hoped to build a city-county courthouse, a new mental health facility and possibly one other county building. Committee Chairman R. Stephen Hawley said, "There is no way we can use that area."

Soil samples from a nine-month analysis showed at least one "hot spot," with heavy concentrations of potential contaminants, according to County Manager Charles W. Meyer. The Legislature now faces the task of finding another site or splitting up the three county facilities proposed for the Evans Street site, which is near a city-owned ice rink and the city Fire Department.

Legislature Chairman Craig Yunker said he hates to "walk away from the site," noting that it's a "crying shame that the parties responsible for the contamination cannot be identified and made to clean it up."

Meyer said it could take six months and thousands of dollars to determine whether the site is acceptable to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

The land is next to the former Doehler-Jarvis plant, a die-casting industry that closed in 1981. The plant, moved from Brooklyn to Batavia in 1921, and was an extensive user of heavy metals. A factory on the site produced shell casings during World War II.

The county does not own the land but spent $20,000 on soil and water tests because the site was considered a prime location for new county buildings.

The site once was a garbage dump and is littered with fill dirt and cinders from railroad locomotives.

State court officials in Buffalo said Tuesday they aren't pursuing penalties because the county and city have acted in good faith. But the state could withhold aid to construct additional court space.

And delays also could mean trouble for the county's mental health facilities, which currently operate out of St. Jerome Hospital's McCauley Hall on Main Street. The lease runs out in 1991 and the new courthouse was to have housed the mental health offices.

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