Residents interested in hearing the results of a contamination investigation of the former Town of Lewiston Water Treatment Plant on the Lake Ontario Ordnance Works site will get their chance.
The Army Corps of Engineers, in charge of the 7,500-acre property in both Lewiston and the Town of Porter, which includes the Lewiston-Porter School District campus, recently studied the soil at the old plant site and is expected to release the results to the public at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Lewiston Senior Citizen Center, 4361 Lower River Road.
But don’t mistake the Corps’ involvement in the area for a surefire sign of contamination, Mick Senus, LOOW project manager, said.
“Just because we go out and investigate doesn’t mean there is necessarily any contamination,” he said. “Because the school is a sensitive area, and being conservative, the Corps thought it best to investigate.”
When the Corps tests for contamination, it looks for two marker compounds — the elements boron and lithium — to determine if the area is contaminated by activities of the federal government.
The LOOW site was at one point federally owned land used by the Department of War — now the Department of Defense — to manufacture trinitrotoluene, better known as TNT, for nine months in the 40’s. Because the Corps is only interested in finding and treating contamination from that time frame, they test for materials used to create the explosive.
“If we investigate and find boron or lithium, it comes from the TNT,” Senus said. “Any other contamination would come from either before the government took over the site, or afterwards.”
The waste water treatment plant site specifically is being studied due to the 1999 partial removal of lines previously used to remove waste from the TNT production, he said. The Corps took samples of the soil, ground water to determine if any residual contamination was left behind, he said.
The meeting Wednesday will feature discussion of the findings, part of the Corps’ Phase IV of its remedial action plan, Senus said. The results will be used, along with public comment, to determine what type of remedial action would need to be taken at the site, part of a feasibility study.
Not being discussed at the meeting, however, is the status of the Niagara Falls Storage Site, the radioactive-materials storage site located on the LOOW site. The Army Corps, also in charge of the site, is planning a feasibility study for its cleanup and remediation.
While public comment has passed, Amy Witryol of the LOOW Restoration Advisory Board said the group’s website, located at www.loowrab.com, has a short, three-question survey designed to help provide both the group and the Corps with guidance to how cleanup at the site should be completed, and whether the site should be turned into a permanent storage facility.
“We’re concerned the community might not understand the concerns we have,” she said. “The window for communication is closing, and it would be nice if the public knew the options up for consideration at this time.”
The three questions are taken directly from a similar questionnaire distributed by the Corps at a September meeting.