July 18, 2008

CWM: Erie County Lawmakers Criticize Expansion

By Dan Miner, Niagara Gazette, Niagara Falls, N.Y.

Jul. 18--An unlikely body came down hard Thursday on the possibility that CWM Chemical Services is granted more capacity to continue operating as a hazardous waste landfill.

A resolution amended to include sponsorship by all 15 members of the Erie County Legislature passed unanimously at a regular meeting.

The document mentions the highly anticipated proposed Hazardous Waste Siting Plan and says it could be out in a few weeks.

Wording in the plan, which has been worked on for years and through several drafts by the state Department of Environmental Conservation, could have a significant effect on CWM's proposal for a new landfill, RMU-2. Its current landfill, RMU-1, has about five years of remaining permitted capacity.

"The Erie County Legislature supports sustainable and attractive economic growth and regards hazardous waste landfills as a non-renewable use of the community's assets," the resolution states, "posing permanent risk to the environment and imposing an undesirable image on our community, thereby impeding tourism efforts in the Buffalo-Niagara region."

CWM spokesperson Lori Caso responded to the action Thursday evening, calling CWM a "safe facility that properly disposes of hazardous waste" and calling the facility "central to the (hazardous waste cleanup process) that cleans up our state."

Without CWM, New York state's only hazardous waste landfill and one of only 17 commercial hazardous waste landfills remaining in the country, costs for New York state businesses to cleanup such sites would raise prohibitively, she said.

"Alternatives presented in the resolution carry negative environmental and economic impacts that haven't been considered," Caso said, including trucking costs to facilities in the Midwest and the carbon footprint of projects. "This could have a crippling effect on brownfields and remediation projects."

Additionally, Caso added that CWM has taken over 116,000 tons of hazardous waste from Erie County in "recent years."

Environmental groups disagreed with CWM in a release sent Thursday, congratulating the Legislature and saying the federal Environmental Protection Agency ruled in 1995 that current hazardous waste disposal capacity is adequate.

"For too long, Western New York has stockpiled massive amounts of chemical waste in a landfill facility only two miles from the Niagara River and three miles from Lake Ontario," Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper Executive Director Julie Barrett O'Neill said in the release. "The Great Lakes hold 95 percent of the surface fresh water supply in the United States and that is precious."

Included in the release are comments from local residents Amy Witryol, Residents for Responsible Government President April Fideli and Art Klein, vice chairperson of the Sierra Club group representing the Buffalo-Niagara region.

The resolution includes a number of points anti-CWM advocates have pointed out recently, saying CWM imports more waste from other areas than it accepts in-state, that the facility could be "restraining investments in safe, alternative solutions" and past trucks which have arrived at CWM gates with leaks.


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