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TOXICS FOUND AT PLANT SPUR INVESTIGATION BY TWO FIRMS

State environmental regulators and two companies have agreed on an investigation and possible cleanup of toxic contaminants at the Greif Bros. Corp. plant in the Town of Tonawanda.

Greif Bros. and the former owner, Sonoco Products Co., have agreed to investigate the extent to which solvents have contaminated the grounds of the fibre drum plant at 2122 Colvin Blvd.

The companies will report their findings to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

State and company officials said it's not clear yet if a full cleanup of the materials is needed or if long-term monitoring will suffice. Any plan for dealing with the contaminants must be approved by the DEC.

"We're a long way from that decision on what needs to be done," said Michael J. Hinton, project engineer for the regional DEC office.

The solvents found at the site, including trichloroethene, were used to clean grease from metal parts produced at the plant.

The solvents have been found underneath the floor of one part of the plant, but it doesn't appear any contamination has leaked from the site, said Allan V. Cecil, vice president of corporate affairs for Sonoco, which is based in South Carolina.

The plant is next to Walter M. Kenney Field, a town park that has ball fields, soccer fields and a deactivated F-4 Phantom jet.

The state Health Department says there is no threat to plant workers, neighbors or park visitors.

The contamination was found during two environmental tests conducted in 1998, soon after Greif Bros., of Delaware, Ohio, acquired the plant from Sonoco.

The fibre drum plant was built in 1948. It was owned by Continental Fibre Drum and Continental Can Corp. until 1985, when it was acquired by Sonoco.

The plant used to manufacture both fibre drums and the metal lids and rims used in the drums, but now manufactures only the drums.

The solvents found at the Greif Bros. plant leaked into the ground during the time Continental owned the plant, Cecil said.

He said Sonoco voluntarily informed the DEC of the contamination found at the site and will cooperate with the state to determine what should be done.

The companies should make their report by October, and a decision on how to deal with the contamination will be made over the winter, the DEC's Hinton said.

The solvents found in the ground under the plant's concrete floor aren't a health risk because someone must come into contact with the contaminants to get sick, said Health Department spokesman Joseph L. Rohm.

There's "absolutely no risk to kids at the park, people in the area or to workers," Rohm said.

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