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US planning clean-up of WWII era bomb-making site in Niagara County

PORTER - More than 70 years after World War II-era bombs were manufactured at a site in Niagara County, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has discovered soil there still contaminated by TNT and lead.

It is proposing to spend $846,045 to clean up a four-acre site in the Town of Porter.

The Army Corps of Engineers will host a public meeting Wednesday, Jan. 11 in Lewiston to discuss its plan to excavate contaminated soil and debris from the former Lake Ontario Ordnance Works, where the Army manufactured TNT for about 9 months before the bomb-making facility was decommissioned in 1943.

The Army Corps has concluded there is no imminent threat to human health or the environment, but it cautions there are potential unacceptable health risks if people have direct contact with the soil.

The Army Corps plans to remove the soil from the land, which is now owned by Occidental Chemical Corp., and haul it to a disposal facility.

The public is invited to a hearing about the corps' planned clean-up and the public health implications. The hearing begins at 6:30 p.m. in the Town of Lewiston Senior Center, 4361 Lower River Road. A presentation by the Army Corps of Engineers is scheduled at 7 p.m. with public comment at 7:30.

The four acres are part of a 7,500-acre tract the Defense Department purchased in 1941 in Niagara County. TNT was produced and stored on about 2,500 acres. In the 1940s, approximately 1,500 acres there were transferred to the Manhattan Engineering District, which later became the Atomic Energy Commission and then the Department of Energy. From the 1950s to the 1980s this area was used for various activities including the production of high energy fuel and storage of radioactive materials during the development of the atomic bomb. The DOE still owns 191 acres of that land.

The U.S. government has been involved in clean-ups on the property since the 1980s. The Department of Energy has removed radioactive contamination "to the extent necessary to comply with remedial action guidelines," according to the Army Corps of Engineers.

For this next clean-up project, the Army Corps of Engineers has proposed one of five possible options for cleaning up the TNT and lead contaminated soil. The other options include no action, limiting access to the area, a landfill cap and remediating and chemically treating the soil on site.

The $846,000 cost to remove the soil to an off-site disposal facility was the cheapest option, with the exception of taking no action. The other three plans of action would involve $3 million to $6 million clean-ups, plus additional millions needed for future maintenance and monitoring costs.

The latest clean-up project followed an inspection of the site in 2015.

Information on the project is available for review in Lewiston Library, 305 S. Eighth St.; the Youngstown Free Library, 240 Lockport St. and online

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