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Lawmakers urge Cuomo to halt Middleport excavation plan

MIDDLEPORT – Two state legislators urged Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo last week to rein in the state Department of Environmental Conservation and prevent further excavation in Middleport.

The DEC and other state and federal environmental agencies plan to require FMC Corp. to dig up 202 properties in the village, most of them residential, to remove soil that tests show is laced with arsenic.

The chemical deposits are blamed on winds blowing over the site of FMC’s agricultural chemical plant.

In several recent meetings, village residents have almost unanimously condemned the cleanup plans, which they fear, based on past experience, will harm their quality of life and property values without producing any positive impact on public health.

“Unfortunately, it appears that the DEC is prepared to ignore this growing chorus of voices in staunch opposition to its plan, leaving the village with one last hope to avoid a decade of massive disruption that offers no meaningful reduction in health risk,” state Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-Newfane, and Assemblywoman Jane Corwin, R-Clarence, wrote in a joint statement last week.

That last hope is in the Executive Mansion in Albany.

“Since all of our state agencies are accountable to the executive branch, Gov. Cuomo can step in now and help negotiate a compromise that works for village residents while addressing any legitimate DEC concerns,” Maziarz and Corwin wrote.

Friday, Maziarz said he had not yet received any response from Cuomo’s office.

FMC is under a consent order to pay for all the work. The latest work, ordered by the DEC on May 28, has been estimated to cost $70 million. The company suggested a $27 million alternative that the DEC rejected.

However, Maziarz and Corwin endorsed it, saying the FMC version “would minimize community disruption and take half as long to complete.”

The legislators added, “A decade’s worth of heavy machinery ripping up whole lawns, mature trees and shrubs, tearing down tree-filled parcels and disrupting traffic would no doubt damage the community’s reputation as an ideal place to live.”

The DEC did not respond to requests for comment from The Buffalo News on Thursday and Friday.

Several excavations have been done in Middleport since the mid-1990s, all aimed at reducing arsenic levels in each property to 20 parts per million, which the DEC defines as the local background level for naturally occurring arsenic.

Robert Forbes, FMC’s corporate director of environmental health, safety, remediation and governance, said the latest plan is targeted to start next summer.

The goal set by the DEC, Forbes said, is “excavation to 20 parts per million, with flexibility.”

A DEC spokeswoman told The Buffalo News on May 28 that individual property owners have the right to refuse the excavations.

The area to be dug up in the next round includes all of the Royalton-Hartland Central School campus, except parts that were excavated in previous rounds.