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Letter: Outer Harbor development raises a number of concerns

The Derby resident who recently criticized three local citizens for taking developer Gerald Buchheit to court over a 23-story residential building proposed for the Outer Harbor has it all wrong. I am very familiar with this case as I was a party to the earlier Article 78 processes. I dropped off because I lost faith in New York State’s judicial system.

Buffalo’s Outer Harbor is not natural land. In the 1800s, Lake Erie water’s edge was east of Route 5. Dumping Buffalo’s industrial wastes and urban fill created much of what is now the Outer Harbor. It is contaminated but can be remediated for safe recreational uses. Following state environmental rules, the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA), previous owner of much of the Outer Harbor, built a safe trail at the water’s edge.

Outer Harbor contaminants can leach into Lake Erie, the source of our drinking water. After Buchheit and company stripped the former Freezer Queen site of impervious surfaces, specifically buildings, roadway and parking lot, the property became vulnerable to substantially more rain, snow and flood-related contaminant leaching. During the developer’s recent Brownfield Cleanup Program process, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation stated “groundwater flows toward Lake Erie,” and identified four contaminants of concern: chromium, manganese, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and petroleum products. Some can cause cancer; some are toxic to the human nervous system.

The most recent water-quality report prepared by Buffalo’s water system management company, Veolia, noted a dramatic increase in chromium, but did not report a breakout of which form of chromium increased, the dangerous one or the deadly one. Since its 2016 report did provide a breakout, and because Veolia also manages the water system in Flint, Mich., that should increase concerns. Potential contamination of our drinking water should worry all of us, including Canadians.

Lynda Stephens


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