By Justin Sondel
Niagara Gazette — It was two years ago Friday when Timothy Henderson heard a loud rap on the door of his Lewiston home.
Calling for Henderson were a Niagara County Sheriff and a chaplain.
They were there to tell him that his son, Ryan, had been killed in a head-on collision with a waste hauling truck.
For Henderson, the memory of that cold, January morning is as sharp and vivid as if it were earlier this week.
"I just felt like somebody reached in my chest and pulled my heart out," Henderson said.
Henderson and other members of Residents for Responsible Government, a not-for-profit group dedicated to informing Niagara County residents about the threat of hazardous materials being buried in local landfills, gathered in the auditorium at the Lewiston-Porter Intermediate Education Center Friday morning to announce the beginning of a new campaign. The group is looking to raise community awareness about not only the dangers of hazardous waste, but the potential hazards created by the trucks that haul such waste into the community.
The campaign, formally called "Instruments of Change in Our Community," seeks to prevent another expansion of the CWM Chemical Services, LLC landfill in the Town of Porter, a facility RRG members like Henderson say contribute to a high volume of hazardous waste haulers on local roads.
"These are our roads, not CWM's," Henderson said Friday. "They force us to share them with massive semi trucks."
Henderson's 35-year-old son was killed in an accident involving a truck coming from the CWM facility.
The company never offered a gesture of sympathy, Timothy Henderson said.
When contacted for comment, CWM spokesperson Lori Caso said in a statement that Ryan Henderson's death was "loss for this entire community."
CWM has been seeking a permit to expand from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation for 10 years. Projections from the community group suggest the hazardous waste landfill will be at capacity within two years.
Henderson compared the group's battle with the company to a boxing match saying they were now "in the 15th round".
"The only way to eliminate this constant threat is to close CWM," Henderson said.
April Fidelli, president of RRG, said the company often responds to criticism by pointing to safety records and the permits it has with DEC.
"Even with the best efforts by CWM, the trucks are still very dangerous and have huge environmental risks," Fidelli said.
As she stood on stage in the school auditorium, Fidelli noted that trucks filled with hazardous waste frequently roll by the Lewiston-Porter School District campus.
"Hazardous waste trucks mixed with school buses, minivans and drivers just learning to drive does not create a safe environment," Fidelli said.
Fidelli also cited a 2008 accident in which a truck carrying hazardous waste - waste that included harmful polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs - tipped over at the corner of Creek and Balmer roads, spilling its contents just down the street from the school district's campus.
"We know these trucks leave PCBs on the road, they are unsafe and they cause accidents," Fidelli said. "This is the most important reason to stop CWM trucks forever."
The group's campaign goal is to stop the expansion and the trucks, Fidelli said.
"The bottom line is if CWM is gone, the trucks will be gone," Fidelli said.