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Letter: Environmental study needed on Outer Harbor contaminants

On May 1 and May 2, Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. rolled out its “preferred plan” for development of Buffalo’s Outer Harbor.

First came The Buffalo News’ article, then a presentation in the Burchfield Penney Art Center auditorium, where comments and questions from the floor were not included. Project boards were set in the center’s lobby and hallway.

ECHDC’s Steve Ranalli led the presentations, mentioning the land was “man-made.” Unfortunately he failed to mention this land was created with contaminated industrial dumps and urban wastes.

The area is a designated brownfield including two areas with serious deed restrictions, the lakeside pathway and the radio tower area. The latter is situated adjacent to the south end of a new mountain bike trail.

That deed restriction, issued in 2015 by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, states, “In the event of development outside the Radio Tower Area, the State recommends that the developer and municipal authorities ensure elimination of exposure routes that would be created by increased land use.”

Massive soil disturbances are included in ECHDC’s “preferred plan” to create hills for viewing and recreation. Given land creation history and Department of Environmental Conservation recommendations, a robust environmental study is needed to determine potential contaminant pathways created by planned soil disturbances.

Previous Outer Harbor studies indicate most contaminant pathways lead to Lake Erie, our drinking water source. Contaminants already discovered include nitrobenzene, chromium, PAH’s, manganese, and petroleum wastes. Most can cause cancer.

ECHDC’s announced next step is SEQR, the State Environmental Quality Review Act’s process for safeguarding the environment. Careful adherence to SEQR protocols is necessary. Studies must be specific to Outer Harbor realities, and not a “generic” study. Seepage of Outer Harbor contaminants may endanger health of people on both sides of our international border.

Lynda Stephens


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