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EPA plans Lockport meeting on Eighteen Mile Creek contamination

LOCKPORT – Federal environmental officials will be in Lockport on Wednesday, hearing residents’ views on contamination along Eighteen Mile Creek and in the adjacent neighborhoods in the northern part of the City of Lockport.

The session is set for 7 p.m. in the 4-H Training Center on the Niagara County Fairgrounds, 4487 Lake Ave.

Although a major source for the pollution is believed to be Flintkote, the former building-materials plant on Mill Street that was destroyed in a 1971 fire, Shirley Nicholas, a Mill Street resident, said she and some of her neighbors believe there must be others.

However, Nicholas said, residents are worried that they will face some form of retaliation if they go public with their notions. “People are afraid,” she said.

Environmental Protection Agency spokesman Michael Basile said people who think they know of potentially responsible parties will be able to check a box on a sign-in sheet Wednesday and will be contacted later on a confidential basis.

There have been reports of high incidences of cancer, multiple sclerosis and other diseases among residents near the creek.

The creek, which flows about 13 miles from Lockport to Lake Ontario at Olcott, was referred to the EPA by the state Department of Environmental Conservation in 2011 for inclusion on the federal Superfund cleanup list, a move that occurred March 15, 2012.

Mayor Michael W. Tucker said, “People think that makes it better. It just gets you in a line with more people.”

Tucker said Basile is scheduled to appear before the Common Council for a briefing at 5 p.m. Wednesday, in case the Council’s regular meeting at 6 runs too long for aldermen to make it to the fairgrounds.

Basile said the EPA is creating a feasibility study of a cleanup, relying in part on the DEC’s past studies, which showed PCBs, lead, arsenic, zinc, copper and chromium in and near the creek.

The EPA is dividing its investigation into two parts: The Eighteen Mile Creek Corridor is within the city, while the area north of the city all the way to Lake Ontario has been dubbed the Sediment Study Area.

The agency’s main focus will be Flintkote, which now is owned by Niagara County because of a tax foreclosure, and nearby residential property. Creek sediments and soil at industrial and commercial sites will be a second action. By dividing the creek into sections, the EPA believes a residential cleanup can occur sooner.

“Normally it takes 1½ to two years to do a remedial investigation. We’re working on this as quickly as we can,” Basile said.