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Chemical in line halts sewer work near Love Canal ; 'Everyone is erring on side of caution,' Falls mayor says

A contractor repairing an old sewer line outside the former Love Canal has halted work after discovering chemicals in the bottom of a pipe.

Paul Drof, the city Water Board's executive director, said Thursday that the work on Colvin Boulevard near 96th Street in the LaSalle District was stopped Wednesday after an analysis showed elevated levels of a chlorinated compound.

The report was forwarded to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, which will determine when work can safely resume.

Drof said he doesn't anticipate any problems.

Mayor Paul A. Dyster said Thursday that public safety was paramount in the decision to suspend work.

"The one concern here is that when you think of what a nightmare Love Canal was, people are going to be super-cautious with anything having to do with that site or any place near it," he said. "So I think quite correctly everyone is erring on the side of caution."

Dyster said investigators had yet to determine the source of the chemical and whether it's new compound or a remnant of the Love Canal crisis.

He added that a company that maintains Occidental Chemical's containment site also is investigating and checking records from 35 years ago to determine what work was done and what materials were in that area.

Sewer lines were cleaned when the Love Canal containment area was developed, Dyster said, but added, "they are checking to see whether this particular sewer pipe was cleaned out."

"Standard operating procedure is to stop when we are not sure and have it analyzed and proceed from there," said Drof, who noted the chemical was found only in the line and not in surrounding soil.

"We always err on the side of caution," Drof added. "People are sensitive in that area, as they have a right to be, but we are just proceeding in a cautionary manner and taking our guidance from New York State."

The work is part of a project to repair 12 sanitary sewers to prevent storm water from leaking into the lines.

e-mail: nfischer@buffnews.com