Niagara Gazette

Local News

November 15, 2013

High levels of toxic pesticide found behind Town of Niagara highway garage

Niagara Gazette — A toxic pesticide has been discovered buried behind the Town of Niagara highway garage.

Highway department employees started to notice strange odors behind the building recently and Robert Herman, the town’s highway superintendent, contacted Clark Patterson Lee, the town’s engineering firm, to perform preliminary tests on the grounds.

“It didn’t seem like a dangerous substance when it was found,” Herman said.

Preliminary soil tests showed elevated amounts of the toxic pesticide Lindane buried near the train tracks that run behind the building. 

The engineering firm then contacted the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to notify them of the elevated levels of the toxin.

Gregory Sutton, a regional waste remediation engineer with the DEC, attended a town board work session Thursday night to discuss the next steps with board members.

Sutton said the area has to be tested further to determine how much of the chemical is buried behind the building.

“It didn’t look like it was widespread but the levels of Lindane or suspected Lindane that was identified are relatively high,” he said.

The DEC will now send a letter to the town notifying officials they need to investigate the contamination.

“If you decline to investigate it then the state would step in,” Sutton said.

Sutton said Lindane was commonly used in the 1940s and 1950s and that illegal dumping of chemicals was common practice during that time period, meaning it will be difficult to identify a responsible party.

“They’d just leave it to guys in barrels or drums and guys just disposed of it in every low spot in Niagara County it seems like,” Sutton said.

Sutton said if the board decides to go forward with testing without the DEC the town would pay for the work.

However, if they wait for the DEC to intervene the testing would likely be delayed until the beginning of next year because of manpower shortages at the agency, he added.

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