Taxpayers Expected to Pay for Upstate New York Cleanup

Tax dollars would be used to fund the $23 million second phase of an upstate New York superfund cleanup unless responsible parties can be identified, the Environmental Protection Agency announced Aug. 31.

Because parties responsible for contamination of the Eighteen Mile Creek site in Lockport, N.Y., haven't been found, the superfund program is expected to pay most of the remediation costs, the EPA said in its proposal.

Still, the transition to a new stage of remediation reflects significant, overall headway, the agency said. “We are making steady progress in cleaning up this site,” EPA Region 2 Administrator Judith Enck said in a statement. “The proposed plan will further that progress by removing much of the contaminated soil that continues to pose a threat and I encourage people to comment.”

Recent Industrial History ‘Unknown’

The Eighteen Mile Creek site, which was placed on the National Priorities List in 2012, extends from Lake Ontario south to Lockport, near the New York State Barge Canal.

The former United Paperboard Co. operated as a lumber company and later as a paper plant on the site from the late 1880s until about 1948. The EPA isn’t able to point to a responsible party after that time, according to the statement.

“The EPA continues to search for parties responsible for the contamination and, if found, will hold them accountable for the costs of investigations and cleanups,” the statement said. “Otherwise, it will be funded by the EPA Superfund program with taxpayer dollars.”

The site is contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls and other chemicals. PCB exposure can cause skin rashes, liver damage and possibly cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The proposed cleanup targets a roughly three-quarter mile stretch dubbed the “Creek Corridor” near downtown Lockport, which housed the United Paperboard plant and other industrial facilities.

The EPA plans to excavate contaminated soil, stabilize the banks of the creek, cap soil and fill in certain locations, and dispose of the excavated soil and fill off-site, the proposal said.

The public may comment on the proposal until Sept. 30. The EPA also will hold a public meeting Sept. 7 at a local fairgrounds.

New York State to Pay 10 Percent

New York state is expected to shoulder 10 percent of the $23 million price tag through an agreement with the EPA, Region 2 spokesman Elias Rodriguez told Bloomberg BNA. The proposed cleanup likely will take two years and nine months to complete, he said.

“During the remedial design phase, an overall project schedule will be developed for the implementation of the project,” Rodriguez said. “The design would evaluate whether or not work could be performed concurrently during the construction seasons.”

The initial remediation phase relocated nearby residents after demolishing homes and one former industrial property. That phase cost roughly $4 million.

The final stage of the cleanup is expected to tackle groundwater remediation and sediments all the way to Lake Ontario, the EPA said.

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