WASHINGTON – Millions of dollars from the recently signed federal infrastructure bill will be used to accelerate the cleanup of the Eighteen Mile Creek Superfund site in Lockport, New York's two U.S. senators and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Friday.
The money will be used to excavate and dispose of sediment in the creek that is contaminated with toxic lead and PCBs. Contaminated soil will be removed from nearby commercial properties, too, as will contaminated soil at residential properties on Mill Street and several adjacent streets.
“This will make a difference for our community impacted by the years of hazardous waste they have endured," said Lockport Mayor Michelle M. Roman. "Cleanup will allow us to protect human life, the environment and promote economic, recreational and habitat improvements.”
The long-abandoned Flintkote plant on Mill Street, which made roofing materials at the site starting in the early 20th century, is believed to be the source of most of the creek pollution. Tests since the 1980s have shown heavy concentrations of cancer-causing PCBs, along with dioxin, lead and other heavy metals, in the creek, on the plant property and along nearby streets.
The pollution has long been a source of concern because of its effect on nearby homes and because the creek flows into Lake Ontario. The site was on New York State's own Superfund list, but the state said a decade ago that it couldn't afford the $22 million cleanup.
The EPA added the Lockport site to the federal Superfund hazardous waste cleanup list in 2012 and has moved forward with partial cleanup measures in more recent years. The agency agreed to relocate five families away from their homes in 2013, and finalized a plan to excavate soil from 28 homes in the city's Lowertown area in 2018, but lacked the funds to do all of the work.
But that should not be a problem now that the EPA announced Friday that it would spend $1 billion of its infrastructure money to clean up 49 previously underfunded Superfund sites, including the one in Lockport and two others in New York State.
“Cleaning up these toxic sites in Elmira, Vestal and Niagara County is critical to protect the public health, clean up our environment and pave the way for economic regeneration at these locations," said Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, the New York Democrat who pushed the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill through the Senate.
Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, also a New York Democrat, agreed.
“The health of New Yorkers should not be put at risk due to toxic waste dumps – period," Gillibrand said. "I fought alongside Senator Schumer to secure and deliver this funding, and I am grateful to the Biden administration for quickly disbursing this money.”
Gov. Kathy Hochul, who fought for the project's inclusion on the federal Superfund list while representing Lockport in Congress a decade ago, also praised EPA's decision to fund the cleanups.
"With strong partners at U.S. EPA and complemented by New York’s State Superfund and Brownfield Cleanup Programs, we are supporting the rebirth of these sites to benefit all of our communities," she said.