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After numerous delays caused by union problems, vandalism at the work site, the removal of illegal aliens and questions about workers wages, the first demolition at the city's old water treatment plant is expected to begin within a week.

Kevin A. Koenig of O'Brien-Kreitzberg & Associates Inc., project engineer, said the first structure to be demolished will be a partially underground multimillion gallon reservoir. Demolition will begin at the end of this week or the beginning of next week, he said.

The asbestos removal work, which encountered the delays, was finally completed by a New Jersey company July 18. Asbestos removal had to be completed before demolition could begin.

In all, five major and some minor buildings, including the two treatment plants, fire house, two pump houses, a generator building, guard house and carpenter's shack, as well as the reservoir will be demolished. All of the buildings will be buried in their foundations. Once demolition is completed, the whole site, located at Buffalo Avenue and 56th Street will be turned over to Occidental Chemical Corp., as part of a federal court agreement on the cleanup of the company's S-Area dump site.

Contamination from the site has infiltrated the plant site and Occidental agreed to contribute $64.9 million toward construction of a new municipal water works rather than have to cleanup and monitor the existing site. The new Michael C. O'Laughlin Municipal Water Plant, dedicated in May, went into operation several months ago.

Koenig said the exact schedule for the start of demolition of the above-ground structures has not been set yet. Work is to be completed by Oct. 20.

The demolition is being done by Integrated Waste Special Services Inc., 201 Ganson St., Buffalo, under a $580,971 contract with the city. Integrated Waste currently is completing some asbestos removal work on additional materials discovered during asbestos removal by Sansla Inc. of Passaic, N.J. The City Council approved a change order for an additional $27,550 for Integrated Waste to remove the asbestos.

Both Sansla and Integrated Waste bid on the additional asbestos removal. Integrated Waste's bid was lower, according to City Engineer Kevin P. O'Brien. Awarding the work to Integrated Waste will avoid potential coordination delays between the two contracts, he said.

Integrated Waste was to have started demolition in April. But, numerous delays were encountered in the asbestos removal by Sansla, which finally completed its portion of the work July 18, O'Brien said. However, the city still is holding back payment of $85,250, or 25 percent of the total project cost, from Sansla under orders from the state Department of Labor, O'Brien said. O'Brien said the department is investigating complaints from workers that some paychecks have been bouncing.

The complaints are the latest in a string of incidents and allegations that have accompanied the New Jersey company's work here since it started in April.

The city stopped the work quickly after complaints by local workers that Sansla was not complying with a contract provision requiring that at least half the workers hired be residents of Niagara Falls. The company eventually complied with the provision by hiring local workers, but complaints soon surfaced that the company was not paying wages in a timely manner and that payroll checks were being returned unpaid by a New Jersey bank. At one time, the city was withholding $112,000 in payments.

Also in April, the U.S. Immigration & Naturalization Service removed three undocumented aliens from the work site. The site was picketed by Laborers Local Union 91 over Sansla's use of non-union labor. And, sheriff's investigators are looking into a possible connection between an apparent bomb threat left for workers at the site and two explosive devices that injured a worker in his Town of Niagara home.

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