Niagara Gazette

July 16, 2013

Schumer asks EPA to relocate Lockport residences

Staff reports
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, is urging officials at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to relocate six residences along Eighteenmile Creek in Lockport, citing concerns about the potential impact of "toxic-laden flood waters from the contaminated creek." 

In a release issued by his office on Tuesday, Schumer described Eighteenmile Creek as an EPA Superfund site that has been plagued by hazardous waste contamination, which he said is now threatening the health and safety of half a dozen homeowners and their families along Water Street.

Schumer noted that the EPA is reviewing two options for remediation, either relocation of the homeowners or a temporary soil cap on the contamination. He argued that – first and foremost – the EPA should move these residents to protect their health and safety. Secondly, he suggested relocation is not only a cheaper short-term option, but also more cost-effective over the long-term. The cost to purchase all the homes is estimated at around $250,000 but a temporary soil cap would cost approximately $1.2 million and could be washed away by future flooding, according to Schumer. 

“In this case the right thing to do – buying out the impacted homeowners – is also the most cost-effective thing to do, and I urge the EPA to choose that option as soon as possible," Schumer said. "The EPA’s priorities should be to get the residents away from contamination first, and then clean up the contaminated site because we cannot gamble with the health and safety of Western New Yorkers. The EPA is currently reviewing their remedial options and I am urging them to include relocation as a part of their remedial action plan, which prioritizes safety and appears to be a more cost-effective option."

Following five inches of rain June 28, Eighteenmile Creek – which is contaminated with PCBs, heavy metals and other hazardous materials – overflowed its banks into nearby properties. Some residents on Water Street report experiencing recurrent flooding, up to 8 to 10 times a year. The EPA recently held a public hearing during which a number of residents voiced their support for the inclusion of relocation in the remedial action plan. Schumer noted that this is a public health concern and relocation of the 6 homes should be included in any action plan, regardless of other strategies.

Much of the flow in the main branch of Eighteenmile Creek comes from water diverted from the New York State Barge Canal (NYSBC). The creek flows north for approximately 15 miles and discharges into Lake Ontario in Olcott.

Eighteenmile Creek was designated as an area of concern (AOC) because of water quality and bottom sediment problems associated with past industrial and municipal discharge practices, the disposal of waste and the use of pesticides. Sampling indicates the presence of numerous contaminants in creek sediments, the most prevalent being Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Other pollutants include mercury, lead, copper, pesticides/insecticides, dioxins, and furans.

Specific causes of contamination have not been determined, but possible sources may include releases from hazardous waste sites or contaminated properties.The Burt and Newfane dams, both located on Eighteenmile Creek downstream of the Corridor Site, may serve as areas within the creek where contaminated sediments accumulate.

“Capping the soil is like putting a band-aid on a brain tumor, and it’s more expensive to boot," Schumer added. "We need a solution that brings these residents to safety, not a solution that can be washed away with the next flood. Homeowners are concerned by contamination in their yards, drinking water, and flooded basements—they simply should be bought out of their homes while the site goes through a full environmental review and cleanup.”