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Funding sought for site cleanups

Niagara County is seeking $325,000 in grant funds from National Grid to clean up sites in Cambria and Somerset.

The County Legislature's Economic Development Committee approved the grant application last week.

All but $25,000 of the money would be added to $650,000 in previously earmarked funds for cleanup and demolition at the old Lockport Air Force Base in Cambria.

The target area is 22 acres of privately owned land behind the Cambria Housing Authority apartments on Unicorn and Eagle drives, said Amy E. Fisk, county senior environmental planner.

National Grid's Brownfield Redevelopment Assistance Program is the hoped-for funding source for removal of the old barracks and missile command center, abandoned more than 30 years ago.

Fisk said the latest cost estimate is $1.7 million, but that figure is several years out of date.

At any rate, she said the demolition will be done in phases, starting as soon as next spring.

The county's Brownfield Development Corp. gave a $400,000 grant toward the project, and a congressional earmark of $250,000 also was obtained.

The town has hired a firm to do the preliminary engineering on the demolition. Fisk said the debris from the demolition will have to be tested, but it's probably not hazardous.

The remaining $25,000 being sought from National Grid would be used to carry out final environmental testing at the old Barker Chemical site on West Somerset Road in Somerset.

The county is hoping the tests are negative so it can foreclose on the 10-acre property because of unpaid property taxes and auction it off.

"The property has been tax-delinquent since 2000," said Fisk.

The county has had a policy of not foreclosing on polluted properties since the Flintkote fiasco in Lockport more than a decade ago. In effect, it means contaminated real estate is exempt from taxation, since the county won't enforce the taxes if they aren't paid.

At Barker Chemical, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency carried out a $1.24 million removal of contamination in 2001.

However, a 2009 report by the state Department of Environmental Conservation hinted at possible residual contamination in the rear portion of the parcel.

Also, water in a lagoon there may be acidic, Fisk said.

Those are the reasons for the tests the county hopes to carry out with the National Grid grant.