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CWM expansion case dragging with no public action

PORTER – The process to determine whether CWM Chemical Services will be allowed to dig a new hazardous waste landfill has made no public progress since a three-day hearing in Youngstown at the end of April.

But papers are shuffling behind the scenes, according to both sides.

“I think we’ve been successful in showing the application was deficient on several levels,” said Gary A. Abraham, one of the prime players on the anti-landfill side.

Abraham, an environmental attorney from Allegany, was hired by Niagara County, the Town and Village of Lewiston and the Village of Youngstown to fight the company’s expansion plan.

He said that Daniel P. O’Connell, the Department of Environmental Conservation administrative law judge running the process, had asked for several supplements to CWM’s application in the wake of the Youngstown meeting, which was called an issues conference.

The purpose of the conference was to determine what the issues will be for a formal hearing yet to be scheduled, and which of the objectors will be allowed to participate. So far, none of that has been settled.

“The judge hasn’t made any ruling on any of the comments,” CWM spokeswoman Lori A. Caso said. “We responded to the citizen comments with information and materials so the record would be complete. None of these comments were unusual, and we were able to quickly provide the data. We’re just allowing the process to proceed.”

Besides Abraham’s clients, opponents of the plan seeking standing to take part in the formal siting board hearing include the Lewiston-Porter School District, the Niagara County Farm Bureau, and Residents for Responsible Government, a local environmental group.

They all hired R. Nils Olsen Jr. as their attorney.

In addition, Amy H. Witryol, a Lewiston resident and two-time Democratic candidate for state senator, is representing herself. And Rick Dykstra, a Canadian member of Parliament representing the district bordering on the Niagara River, also is in the mix.

“They only get to be parties if they find significant issues,” Caso said.

CWM owns 710 acres in Lewiston and Porter, located off Balmer Road in an area that was used by the federal government to dispose of nuclear waste from the World War II atomic bomb project and postwar nuclear activities.

Its current hazardous waste landfill is almost out of room, so the company is applying for a state permit to allow it to dig a new one on that property. The proposed new landfill would cover 43.5 acres and hold an estimated 4 million cubic yards of waste and last as long as 20 years. CWM is the only licensed hazardous waste landfill operator in New York State.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo appointed a siting board, as directed by law. The DEC and the siting board’s eight members – five state officials and three local residents – eventually will decide whether to give CWM the thumbs-up or the thumbs-down. But so far, Abraham said, there is no indication when O’Connell will decide who gets to advance to the next step.