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Meeting set on cleanup in Middleport

A meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday on the next phase of FMC Corp.'s arsenic cleanup project.

FMC Corp. plans to replace "shallow soils" on 13 residential properties near its plant. The work, which could begin as early as next month, would involve 12 homes on the south side of Park Avenue and one on Maple Avenue.

Most of the properties are close to the vacant, wooded "Coe property," a former commercial and industrial site also scheduled for soil removal at the same time.

The company proposes to rehabilitate portions of the village's storm water drainage system (Culvert 105) and upgrade its plant's on-site water treatment facilities.

FMC Corp., headquartered in Philadelphia, has been operating on nearly 90 acres in Middleport since 1943, when it bought the site from Niagara Sprayer, which was established in the early 1900s.

Before 1974, the plant made arsenic-containing pesticide products but now operates as a formulating and packaging facility.

The company, which no longer does any manufacturing in Middleport, is undertaking the latest work at the direction of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the state departments of Environmental Conservation and Health.

Government agencies are calling Monday's meeting, to be held in the Middleport Fire Hall at 28 Main St., a "public involvement session" and encouraging residents to ask questions or make comments about the proposed project. Personnel from all three agencies and FMC will be present.

The proposed work includes removing soil where tests have found traces of arsenic. The testing, conducted in the 1990s and early part of this decade "did not indicate any immediate health threats," according to the health risk experts, company officials have stated.

"We understand this has to be done, but we want it done quickly and in the most cost-effective manner and with the least disruption," Middleport Mayor Julie Maedl said. "They're not doing this because they've found any health concerns, but as a preventative [measure]."

Once the soil is removed, the proposal calls for restoring the properties to their current condition.

The work could include removing trees, shrubs, sheds, decks, fences and above-ground pools. While property owners will not receive direct compensation, they will get vouchers to replace the items, according to FMC officials.

The company began its cleanup in 2003 with the more extensive removal of up to 6 feet of soil on 14 residential properties on nearby Vernon Street, where high levels of arsenic had been detected. Those homeowners had to be relocated for two weeks.

FMC officials said residents of Park and Maple avenues would not have to be relocated and that the work will take about two weeks at each property.

Some people living on Park Avenue still have concerns.

"It's so important that the people of Middleport get involved in this," said Anne Holahan, a longtime Park Avenue resident. "I can't stress this enough. I've resigned myself to the fact that FMC will do this, and rather than 'why,' I'm more concerned with 'how' they will do it now."

"I will lose my wind and sound barrier and my shade," added Holahan, whose backyard abuts FMC property.

On behalf of all of the agencies, Matt Mortefolio, state DEC project manager, will accept written comments on this phase of the cleanup until June 25.

Mortefolio can be reached at 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-7258 or by e-mail at mjmortef@gw.dec.state.ny.us.

e-mail: niagaranews@buffnews.com

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