A prominent environmental lawyer is expected to be hired to advise Niagara County on how to block the expansion of the CWM Chemical Services landfill in Porter.
The Niagara County Legislature will vote Tuesday on the hiring of Gary Abraham of Allegany, who has worked with citizen groups fighting garbage landfills in Albion and Farmersville.
Abraham said it would take him about 90 days to come up with a plan for winning the county a place at the table as the state Department of Environmental Conservation considers a permit for CWM's expansion. The company wants to add 50 acres to its current 47-acre landfill.
"We're at a critical stage right now in terms of Niagara County's future, as to whether we're going to continue to be the toxic dumping ground of New York State," said Legislator Lee Simonson, R-Lewiston.
Simonson said Abraham was recommended by Residents for Responsible Government, the citizens group fighting the CWM plan and calling attention to issues connected with the buried nuclear waste from the World War II atomic bomb project at the former Lake Ontario Ordnance Works site in Lewiston and Porter.
"Up until now, RRG has been carrying the ball itself. It's all been private donations, and they've lost," Simonson said.
CWM's landfill was carved out of the Ordnance Works site in 1974.
"I think there's some question about the radiological contamination of the site and whether the expansion would expose the residents to additional radiological hazards," Abraham said.
On another angle, the county has urged the state health commissioner, Dr. Antonia C. Novello, to uphold her department's 32-year-old order barring disturbance of the soil at the Ordnance Works site. The CWM landfill was dug after an exception was granted.
County officials have also complained that the DEC didn't follow a state law calling on it to work out a hazardous-waste disposal plan that called for the use of sites other than CWM.
"They were supposed to come up with a siting plan that was more equitable," Abraham said.
However, he said he thinks it would probably be more productive to have the county made party to the expansion process and fight the plan from within.
Simonson said he hopes local governments in the area will contribute to pay Abraham if he is retained after his report. The county resolution calls for paying him up to $6,000. But Simonson said the Town of Porter is barred from taking part under terms of its agreement to approve the CWM expansion.