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SALE OF LANDFILL MUDDIES WATERS ON ITS CLOSING

The pending sale of the Schultz landfill on Indian Road near Broadway in Cheektowaga has cast a cloud of uncertainty over plans to begin closing it down.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation is continuing negotiations with the current owner, IWS Schultz Landfill, to begin closing and capping the eastern half of the 20-acre dump next month, according to Mark J. Hans, regional solid materials engineer.

However, when the property went on the block at Erie County's annual tax-foreclosure sale two weeks ago, a bid of $75,000 was submitted by 4215 Group of Buffalo, one of a number of corporations headed by Buffalo lawyer and developer Carl P. Paladino.

The Paladino corporation, which has until July 6 to close the deal, has not disclosed its intentions for the property.

Hans said the sale of the mountainous landfill could delay its closure while the DEC negotiates a closure permit with the new owner.

Cheektowaga residents who live near the dump and two adjacent closed hazardous-waste landfills have been pressing the state to close and cap it for the past few years. Some residents believe the landfills and a nearby stone quarry are responsible for abnormally high rates of illness in the town's Bellevue area.

Joseph L. Maciejewski, county director of finance and real property, said 4215 Group's $75,000 purchase offer was accompanied by a deposit of $15,000. Monthly penalty charges will kick in if the deal isn't closed by July 6. If a closing hasn't occurred after about six months, then the county would seek a default judgment and the deposit would be forfeited, Maciejewski said.

IWS Schultz has not paid its property taxes in four years, and the opening bid was set at $75,000 to cover the bill, Maciejewski said. The Paladino corporation was the only bidder.

Maureen A. Brady, DEC assistant regional attorney, said any new owner will have to apply for a permit transfer, and closure conditions would be made part of that transfer.

Authorities have estimated it will cost about $2 million to close and cap the landfill. A closure budget the owners have been required to fund currently totals more than $1.8 million, officials said.

The Schultz landfill, more than 80 feet high in some places, holds about 35 years of waste, some of it hazardous.

PCBs, which have been shown to cause cancer in animals, were discovered during drilling in the landfill in 1989 and 1990. Ground water beneath the site was found to be contaminated as early as 1982, according to DEC records.

Officials at Integrated Waste Systems, which took over the dump in 1990, said they have no knowledge of toxic or hazardous substances dumped there. However, in the three decades before Integrated Waste, the landfill had several owners.

Under Integrated Waste, DEC permits have restricted the waste that can be accepted to construction and demolition debris.

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