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Brownfield proposals spur criticism

Five environmental groups criticized the state's proposed new standards for brownfield cleanups last week, saying they would allow dangerous levels of pollutants to remain on remediated properties.

The groups said the new standards proposed by the Department of Environmental Conservation would not protect children, water supplies, fish and wildlife, as required by the law enabling the new standards. "When we looked at these regulations, we found a number of frightening divergences from the way the law is written," said Bobbie Chase Wilding, associate director for one of the groups, Citizens' Environmental Coalition.

Specifically, she said the law called for establishing three soil standards for remediated brownfields, depending on their projected use: unrestricted, commercial and industrial.

Instead, Wilding said, the DEC created six standards. The "unrestricted" designation would have two standards, one for human health and a lesser one if there were ecological resources on the site.

The other soil standards would be for restricted residential, commercial and industrial uses, and if there was ground water that was being used on the site.

"Even with [different standards], they still say in written materials that you can't use this land for farming," Wilding said. "I know that that's far-fetched, but the point of unrestricted is, it's supposed to be unrestricted."

The groups, which also included the Community Action Organization Environmental Justice Office, the Learning Disabilities Association of Western New York, the Sierra Club and the Toxic Waste/Lupus Coalition, also criticized a proposal to eliminate the automatic notification of remediation plans now sent to environmental groups and the media.

"Now, in the regulations, the site contact list doesn't include environmental groups or the media," Wilding said. "We think that's atrocious. How can we make sure they're living up to the law?"

DEC spokeswoman Gabrielle DeMarco said the department is conducting three hearings across the state, including one held Thursday in Rochester, to solicit public input. "These are draft regulations," she said. "All input is being considered, and all information in the draft regulations is not final."

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