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Wheatfield sets aside money to pay for landfill fence

WHEATFIELD - The Wheatfield Town Board on Monday appropriated money to build a fence around an abandoned toxic landfill which has prompted threats of lawsuits from current and past neighborhood residents.

"That's my goal, to get the fence done this year," Supervisor Robert B, Cliffe said Tuesday. "The board is committed to building it."

But he said the town still reserves the right to reject all construction bids if they are too high.

The 4,200-foot chain-link fence would be six feet tall, and the estimated cost is about $152,000.

The board authorized the town's engineering firm, Wendel, to complete the design and prepare specifications so contractors can bid on the job.

Cliffe said it might be a month or more before that paperwork is done.

Cliffe said nearly 40 notices of claim have been filed in recent weeks, most of them demanding $60 million in damages for each plaintiff.

They now have 15 months to file actual lawsuits against the town over its alleged failure to protect the health of residents.

The former Niagara Sanitation landfill, closed in 1968, covers about 18 acres on a 20.8-acre town-owned piece of property off Nash Road. It's near the North Tonawanda city line, and most of those threatening to sue the town over their alleged health problems live, or used to live, on or near Forbes Street in North Tonawanda.

The landfill contained some waste moved from the Love Canal landfill by the state Department of Transportation in 1968, during the construction of the LaSalle Expressway. The other waste at the site was dumped there by local industries.

The Love Canal waste was removed in 2014-15, but the notices of claim assert that Love Canal-type waste has migrated off-site and turned up in soil samples at nearby homes. The state Department of Environmental Conservation, which tentatively plans a Superfund cleanup of the site in 2019, indicated in a public document last year that it sees no evidence or likelihood of waste migration.

The board took almost $77,000 from the town's surplus, which will be combined with an expected $75,000 state grant to pay for the fence.

There never has been a fence around the site, except for a temporary one during the removal of the Love Canal waste. No-trespassing signs have been ignored and vandalized by those who like to use all-terrain vehicles on the landfill property, Cliffe recently said.

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