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Water discharge permit opens new front in CWM battle

PORTER – A request from CWM Chemical Services to continue discharging treated chemical leachate into the Niagara River has opened a new angle in the battle over whether the company should be allowed to dig another hazardous waste landfill at its site on Balmer Road in Lewiston and Porter.

The company is seeking state permission to construct a new 43.5-acre landfill, holding 4 million cubic yards of waste, to replace the one that ran out of room last year. But CWM can’t operate the new landfill if it doesn’t receive a water discharge permit, too, said Gary A. Abraham, an attorney representing Niagara County, the Town of Lewiston and the villages of Lewiston and Youngstown in an effort to deny CWM the landfill permit.

That makes the water discharge permit a crucial aspect of the battle over the landfill, and Abraham said this week he intends to submit objections to the water permit in time to meet Monday’s public comment deadline.

CWM already has a permit to discharge treated water from its old landfill. According to a notice from the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the new landfill would result in discharges not only to the Niagara River but also to two tributaries of Four Mile Creek, which empties into Lake Ontario.

The DEC has tentatively decided to issue the new water discharge permit, according to the public notice, but it wouldn’t become effective unless the new landfill is approved.

There are some technical changes in the water permit rules, which CWM spokeswoman Lori A. Caso said reduce the amounts of mercury and PCBs that are allowed to go to the on-site treatment facility before discharge.

“We have no concerns about meeting the new permit requirements,” Caso said.

Meanwhile, the siting board that eventually will make a recommendation to the DEC on whether the landfill should be allowed is awaiting determination of which technical issues will be placed before it at a yet-to-be-scheduled “adjudicatory hearing.”

Just before Christmas, DEC Administrative Law Judge Daniel J. O’Connell issued a 161-page ruling on which issues should be on the table in that hearing. But the participants were allowed to appeal his findings to the DEC commissioner’s office.

All the opponents filed some appeals before this month’s deadline, including Abraham’s clients as well as the Lewiston-Porter School District, the Niagara County Farm Bureau, a citizen group called Residents for Responsible Government and former State Senate candidate Amy H. Witryol of Lewiston. The DEC staff also filed some appeals, Abraham said, but CWM did not.

“On balance, we determined the most expeditious way to get through the process would be to move forward with the items identified by the (judge),” CWM attorney Daniel M. Darragh said.

Abraham said he expects a schedule for future action in the case to be set up during a telephone conference of all the parties with Judge O’Connell Friday.