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EPA completes final Water Street buyout in Lockport

LOCKPORT – The final government buyout of contaminated property on Water Street in Lockport has been completed.

Records at the Niagara County Clerk’s Office show that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency paid $40,000 Thursday for a rental property at 127 Water St., owned by Jason Richardson.

That was the only outstanding transaction in the EPA’s plan to use Superfund money to buy five homes on the street, which backs up to Eighteen Mile Creek, a contaminated waterway that is listed as a federal Superfund site from Lockport to Olcott.

On the opposite side of the creek from the Water Street backyards is the old Flintkote plant, which the EPA is in the process of demolishing. Flintkote, a onetime building materials plant gutted by a 1971 fire, is believed to be the primary source of the chemical pollution in the creek.

Whenever the creek rose, such as during the spring because of melting snow, the water would flood the backyards on Water Street. The water contained cancer-causing PCBs and other chemicals, including lead, arsenic and chromium, government tests have shown.

The state Health Department has issued advisories telling people not to touch the creek’s sediment or eat any fish caught in the stream.

The boarded-up homes are to be demolished and the site used as a staging are for future cleanup work, the EPA has said.

Public records show the EPA paid the five Water Street property owners prices well above the assessed valuations the city placed on the houses.

The rental home owned by Richardson was assessed at $24,800. Richardson bought it for $8,000 in 2006. The most recent tenant was moved to a new apartment with government help. Other buyouts, recorded in the Clerk’s Office in November, included $85,000 purchases of 99 Water St., owned by Kristina M. Morrison, and 143 Water, owned by James E. Stiles. Jason Despaw of Ashfield, Mass., was paid $88,000 for 117 Water and an adjoining vacant lot. The house was the home of his grandfather, Richard P. Despaw, who died in 2013.

Also, Steve Malcomb was offered $85,000 for 113 Water St., but the EPA paid him only $80,000. His payments on the house were called into question by the mortgage holder.

City records showed Malcomb’s house was assessed at $11,900, Morrison’s at $31,800, Stiles’ at $27,000 and Despaw’s at $22,400.

County land records showed that two of the residents have bought property locally. Morrison paid $67,900 for a house on Price Street in Lockport, and Stiles paid $132,500 for property on Cottage Road in Royalton.