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Niagara Falls officials downplay concerns about ‘radioactive’ pile of dirt

NIAGARA FALLS – A pile of dirt, about 100 tons of it, sitting at the corner of North and Ontario streets has caused some alarm after reports that the dirt is radioactive and has been sitting there for years. But city officials say there is nothing to be concerned about.

The pile has been at that location for about two months, but the excavated dirt is part of the two-year construction project at the nearby Niagara Falls Train Station, according to Thomas DeSantis, the city’s acting director of planning and environment, who has been the go-to person on the train station project.

A sign labeling the dirt as “radioactive” was placed at the site by the contractors, DeSantis said, but he said the material is not considered dangerous.

He called the radiation “naturally occurring material” and said anyone who tried to paint it as dangerous is “guilty of fear mongering.”

“It’s not abandoned and it’s safe to anybody walking by,” DeSantis added. He said it was no surprise that it is there and the city already had plans to remove it in the next few weeks.

He said testing excavated dirt for the higher levels of naturally occurring radiation, such as radon, is something that every construction site does.

“We dig it up and then we segregate it,” said DeSantis. He said the dirt doesn’t go to Modern Landfill, but rather a permitted landfill.

City Council Chairman Andrew Touma told concerned members of the public at Monday’s Council meeting that he also had asked questions of city officials about the radioactive dirt.

“The spoils pile is not abandoned or open to public access,” said Touma, who noted a broken fence around the dirt had been repaired, “The general excavation is complete and this last pile is scheduled for removal to an out-of-state facility within the next two weeks.”