The halt to cleanup of radiation contamination at three sites in Lewiston and Niagara Falls shows there is something fundamentally wrong at the Environmental Protection Agency.
It is the only way to explain why the agency suddenly abandoned work at the three hot spots contaminated by radioactive waste byproducts from previous industrial uses. While the levels of radiation are low and don’t pose an immediate threat, over time the exposure could reach dangerous levels.
For the sake of public safety the EPA must restart its efforts at the three sites: a parking lot at a bowling alley on Niagara Falls Boulevard, a lot adjacent to Holy Trinity Cemetery and a residential site on Upper Mountain Road.
The sites were in different stages of investigation and cleanup at a cost of about $3 million when work stopped.
To hear Sen. Charles E. Schumer describe it, “EPA just packed up the trucks, abandoned the sites, abandoned homeowners and residents here in Lewiston.” And now, he said, there is uncertainty. And worry among families living near the sites.
Investigative Post, a nonprofit investigative center in Buffalo, reported in August that the federally funded work involving the removal of radioactive gravel from numerous hot spots in Niagara County had run out of money.
Schumer said the agency has not responded to questions about why the work was halted. Here’s some unsolicited advice to the EPA: Answer the Senate minority leader. Better yet, provide some answers to the general public about how its money has been and is being spent.
The EPA’s action comes as this area is, as a result of concerted government and grass-roots efforts, making a good deal of progress on cleaning up old environmental damage and restoring natural habitats.
The EPA should immediately return to the sites and complete the work. And when those sites are remediated, attention can turn to the more than 60 other hot spots that stain Western New York, and Niagara County in particular.
The agency cannot be allowed to shirk its duty to the public. Turning its back is not an option.