Trucks drowned out speakers as they gathered in front of the Lewiston-Porter school campus Monday to oppose increases in hazardous waste at the Chemical Waste Management landfill in the Town of Porter.
That was the point.
"We're out here in the middle of a field for a reason," said April Fideli, president of Residents for Responsible Government, said from the Creek Road campus. "We wanted everyone to see the school and see the hazardous waste trucks that drive by here every day.
"Every truck that goes to CWM goes right by our school."
The group, other residents and several political leaders are calling for a groundswell of community support as Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer considers signing the Great Lakes Hazardous Waste Bill, which will be sent to his desk by the Assembly on Friday.
The bill's purpose is to prevent the discharge of PCBs and other hazardous chemicals into the Great Lakes. Supporters believe it would stop the proposed expansion of the CWM landfill, Fideli said.
Last year, then-Gov. George E. Pataki vetoed a similar bill after it passed overwhelmingly in both houses of the State Legislature. It has passed in the Legislature again.
Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte, D-Lewiston, said the new administration needs to be aware of the history of the site, and this legislation.
"Round Two of this Great Lakes legislation fight is about to begin. It will happen this Friday. He'll have 10 days to decide to sign it or veto it," DelMonte said.
Former Town of Porter Councilman William Choboy said that 65 years ago, Western New York had a lot of plants that were used for munitions and development of the atomic bomb. The waste from those efforts ended up locally.
"The siting plan for another 35 years should round it off to about a century of taking toxic waste from places far away," Choboy said. "The federal government has to be held accountable. It's time for a governor to step up and become the environmental governor for the State of New York."
DelMonte said the northwest corner of the state and the Town of Porter shouldn't be responsible for being the repository for all the hazardous waste not only in New York, but in the Northeast and parts of Canada.
She said support letters will tell the state that expansion of CWM is not an option.
"Tell them that having a hazardous waste landfill so close to the Great Lakes is not good public policy and it also runs contrary to international agreements. We need to inform them that eventually all landfills leak," DelMonte said.
Lewiston Town Supervisor Fred Newlin supported the grass-roots organization.
"RRG stands not only for Residents for Responsible Government," Newlin said, "but should stand for Residents for a Responsible Governor, and we're calling on him to be responsible to the land of New York, the air of New York and the water of New York."
Lori Caso, who works in public relations for CWM, said she was not invited to speak at the media event, but told The Buffalo News that RRG's protests on Friday "did not stop 700 people from coming on site for an annual Town of Porter Community Picnic," which involved a tour of the landfill.
State Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-Newfane, encouraged all groups to send their letters of support to the governor, the commissioner of the DEC, and the secretary of state to encourage the governor to sign this bill.
"I add my encouragement and support. I've already sent my letter off to the governor," Maziarz said.
Fideli said e-mails can be sent by going online to www.ny.gov/governor and clicking on the icon, "Contact the Governor"; letters can be mailed to Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer, Executive Chamber, State Capital, Albany, NY, 12224; or faxes can be sent to (518) 474-1513.