Residents who lived closest to the former Nike missile base site in Hamburg challenged the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' conclusion Wednesday night that there is little health risk from contaminants found at the base.
"We know more about this site than we know about a lot of other formerly used defense sites," said David Brouwer, project manager for the Corps of Engineers' Formerly Used Defense Sites in New York and New Jersey. "We concluded that the site does not pose a risk."
Brouwer spoke Wednesday night at the Lakeview Fire Hall at the fifth public meeting on contamination found at the site on Lakeview Road, which is now owned by the town and used by its recreation, buildings and grounds and highway departments. The state Department of Environmental Conservation also discussed the maintenance at the former town landfill and the sledding hill, also located at the former base.
Brouwer said the corps looked at data from five sources in performing a limited health risk assessment: studies performed by residents, the state Department of Health, the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the corps, and Hamburg's consultant, GZA GeoEnvironmental.
Robert Martin, who with his wife, Carrie, owns a home on Lakeview Road next to the Nike base, noted that there is a monitoring well on his property and samples have been taken from the sump pump. He asked if that was enough data to perform the health risk assessment.
"Air monitoring was never performed," Martin said. "I feel it's inconclusive because of the (lack of) air monitoring."
Martin and his family and their neighbors Donald and Joanne Hellert and their children moved out of their homes last year after heavy metals and volatile organic compounds were found on their property. Both families are suing the Town of Hamburg.
Brouwer said the corps study was not intended to be a comprehensive study of the whole site, but was a screening and used the most conservative standards. If a problem was found, more investigation would have ensued, he said.
"We did not find a problem," he said.
Joanne Hellert asked Brouwer what carbon disulfide is, and why it was found in her sump pump water.
"I'm not a chemist. I have not heard carbon disulfide being mentioned as a contaminant of concern at any Nike site," he said.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, carbon disulfide is a colorless, flammable liquid with a pleasant odor that is used in the manufacture of rayon, agricultural fumigants, rubber chemicals and cellulose. Exposure to the chemical can affect the human nervous system.
Hamburg Councilwoman Kathleen Courtney Hochul said the town is committed to investigating and solving any problems at the Nike base and already has spent $200,000 on the site. But some residents remained frustrated, even as the corps and town were declaring that testing results were good news.
"Maybe your citizens are so dragged down and bogged out by almost having to declare bankruptcy because they had to leave their homes and move in together for the last 16 months in an apartment with four adults, five kids, three dogs, a guinea pig and a rabbit," Joanne Hellert said. "That's where your real citizens are, and I haven't seen the Town of Hamburg pick up the phone once to call us and ask us how we were doing."