NORTH TONAWANDA – Forget taking a drive along Walck Road between Nash Road and Zimmerman Street with the windows down – at least for a few more weeks.
For about a month, noses have been picking up a distinctive smell near the site of the former Durez Corp. plastics and chemical plant that was torn down in 1997.
The site is now a vacant field, maintained as a remediated hazardous-waste site.
City Engineer Dale W. Marshall said the smell emanates from heated plastic, which is being used to line existing city sewer pipes. He said crews from the state Department of Environmental Conservation should be done with the project in “a couple of weeks.”
“There is nothing toxic. It’s definitely not a Durez smell,” Marshall said. “It’s a good thing that they are doing this. They are protecting the environment even more and not allowing any contamination to leave the site.”
In 1987, the DEC began the Pettit Creek Flume project, a $20 million effort to clean the entire pipe to the Niagara River, and moved the city’s transmission main. Initial remediation was completed in 1995.
Marshall said last year that the work has continued to remove any residuals, inspect approximately 7,300 linear feet of pipe, and put a new, smaller carrier pipe inside 1,000 feet of older sewer pipe that needs repairs in front of the factory.
The $800,000 project is fully funded by Occidental Chemical, which owns the site and is responsible for maintaining it in perpetuity, Marshall said.
Community air monitoring was performed throughout the project, he said.
Marshall said the DEC returned to seal the pipes, a process called “cured in place,” which uses steam to cure a new liner inside the existing pipe. This also avoids the digging up of any contaminated soil or roads, he said.
“They drag what is like a sock – uncured collapsed pipe – from manhole to manhole. The steam is used to heat and expand it, ” Marshall said. “The old pipe becomes the form and the new pipe is on the inside. What you are smelling is the plastic from that heating process.”
Marshall said that it is blown up like a balloon to adhere to the inside of the old pipe.
The $800,000 project will put in the new pipe along Walck, between Nash and Zimmerman.
Marshall said the work has “nothing to do with Durez Chemical.”
“When you think about it, all those joints leak. They are old,” he said.
“If they are leaking, they could infiltrate or allow something to come into the pipe and pollute the river or could exfiltrate – something could come out of the pipe into the ground. If you line the pipe, you have eliminated any type of inflow or outflow.”
He said the work that is being done is precautionary.
“They want to ensure there is no contamination leaving that site,” Marshall added. “There is constant monitoring.”
He said that Walck is mostly industrial and that the smell affects those who drive by, not residents.
“Your nose is better than any electronic gear ever,” Marshall said of residents’ concerns.
“Your nose can smell a molecule.”