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North Tonawanda resident criticizes fence plan for Wheatfield landfill

WHEATFIELD – The planned fence around the old Niagara Sanitation landfill won’t do anything to solve residents’ health problems, a North Tonawanda resident told the Wheatfield Town Board on Monday.

“I feel as though the fence isn’t going to do any good,” said Cory D’Agostino, of Forbes Street, who has lived on that North Tonawanda street near the Wheatfield town line for eight years. “Kids are running dirt bikes every day. … People are sick in our neighborhood.”

The landfill, owned by the town since it was closed in 1968, is a state Superfund site. The state Department of Environmental Conservation has declared it an active threat to human health in order to use the Superfund law to try to pry cleanup costs out of the entities that dumped there.

Last year, a company hired by Occidental Chemical Corp. removed Love Canal waste from the landfill. That PCB-laden waste was dumped there by the state Department of Transportation in 1968, during the construction of the LaSalle Expressway, which disturbed part of the Love Canal landfill in Niagara Falls. But there’s plenty of other hazardous material in the 18.7-acre landfill.

According to the Dec. 21 DEC announcement, “The site is a former municipal and industrial landfill that accepted waste from multiple sites, including Niagara Falls Air (Reserve Station), Bell Aerospace, Carborundum, Frontier Chemical, Graphite Specialties, Continental Can, and Greif Brothers. Site contaminants include metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyls, pesticides, caustics, and plating tank sludge.”

“Do you know how many fish have been caught there, deer killed, kids playing back there?” asked Autumn Kavney, fiancée of D’Agostino’s son Vincent, 22.

Vincent D’Agostino said he has an enlarged liver and thyroid trouble. “I have eaten a lot of fish caught back there,” he said.

His father, Cory, said, “They knew about this in the ’80s. If I had known, I never would have bought the house.” Cory D’Agostino said that there is knee-deep water in his backyard every year because of the runoff from the landfill, which has intensified since a service road was built to facilitate the removal of the Love Canal waste.

Supervisor Robert B. Cliffe said it’s frequently used by local dirt bike riders, disturbing the cap, which does not comply with current DEC regulations. The state ordered the fence, which the town never moved on because of the estimated cost, Cliffe said. It will be a 6-foot-high chain-link fence, about 4,400 feet long. Previously, the cost had been estimated at $150,000.

Earlier this year, State Sen. Robert G. Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, obtained a $75,000 state grant for the town to pay for the fence; Cliffe said that it might pay for 70 percent of the cost, but Town Engineer Timothy J. Zuber said the cost actually is unknown because of several complicating factors.

Zuber said the project is a challenge not only because of the waste, but the amount of trees and brush that will have to be cut, and the need for Army Corps of Engineers approval, because the site is considered a wetland.

Councilman Gilbert G. Doucet said Zuber’s design report indicates that in some areas the toxic waste is close to the surface and could be disturbed by fence posts. Zuber said to try to avoid that, only every third post will have a concrete footer.