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The city has given Niagara County the go-ahead to remove a culvert on William Street, blocking pedestrian traffic through the Flintkote property.

The county, which owns the burned-out remains of the former building materials factory, is also planning another attempt to sell it at auction Feb. 24.

Traffic is already blocked on William Street between Water and Mill streets, but pedestrians, including schoolchildren, have been known to walk around the barriers. The street runs right through the 4.9-acre Flintkote property.

The plan is to remove two 8-foot cross-culverts that channel Eighteen Mile Creek under the street. That will leave a gap of about 20 feet in William Street, with the creek rushing through.

Assistant County Attorney Richard C. Kloch Sr., who has spearheaded the county's efforts to do something to make the site safer, said the proposal received approval at a meeting of the Common Council's Public Health and Safety Committee.

"They're going to send us a letter saying we can take the culvert out," Kloch said after the meeting.

Mayor Thomas C. Sullivan said no one had any objections to the idea, but he said the legalities of the matter had to be cleared with Corporation Counsel John J. Ottaviano.

The county foreclosed on the property last year for nonpayment of property taxes, something the city had declined to do because of fears that the property might contain hazardous waste and the owner might be stuck with the cost of an environmental cleanup.

Actually, the county was not aware at the time that there were environmental concerns about the site. The County Legislature's Public Works Committee was told earlier this month that a lawsuit may be filed against the abstract company that did the research on the titles to the properties in the foreclosure sale.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation removed several barrels of liquid laced with PCBs from the remains of the Flintkote building almost 20 years ago. The structure also is known to be heavily laden with asbestos, which would have to be removed before demolition.

The city sought unsuccessfully to get a waiver from the asbestos removal requirement a couple of years ago. The notion then was to knock the building down and bury the remains on site, as if it were a toxic dump, and plant grass.

Sullivan predicted that the site would eventually end up as green space.

The DEC conducted soil samples in November. Regional hazardous-waste remediation engineer Daniel K. King said Friday that results are starting to trickle in but it's too early to tell what the data shows. He said it may be sometime in February before a clear picture emerges.

Kloch said the county thinks the site is marketable if the DEC tests show no hazardous materials.

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