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Window for input widened on wetlands plan

State environmental regulators have extended the deadline for public comments on their proposal to add 120 acres of wetlands, most of which are in the City of North Tonawanda.

The new deadline is June 15, State Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-Newfane, said in a press release this afternoon.

Maziarz and North Tonawanda Mayor Robert G. Ortt had requested an extension last month from the Department of Environmental Conservation.

3:33 p.m.: Here's a link to the state DEC's freshwater wetlands program website.

3:15 p.m.: Last month, Ortt was criticized for what some viewed as an attempt to get a rubber stamp from the city's environmental committee on a road extension project that may be impacted by the wetlands designation. Here's that story.

We've also got maps of the proposed wetlands: Map 1, Map 2, Map 3, Map 4 and Map 5. Map 1 shows a proposed wetland that lies on the North Tonawanda-Town of Wheatfield border.

Last year, North Tonawanda officials were considering a lawsuit against the state over the wetland issue.

Another proposed wetlands delineation, which is part of the latest plan, also led to a dispute with the state last year.

--Aaron Besecker

Niagara County farmer among those calling for immigration reform

Jim Bittner of Singer Farms in Appleton was one of several farmers who called for immigration reform during a meeting with federal representatives on Tuesday, according to The Batavia Daily News.

Aggressive enforcement of immigration laws, Bittner said, has turned many local farms into "war zones," the newspaper reported today.

The discussion was part of a session with Rep. Chris Lee's agriculture advisory committee.

Here's the entire Daily News' story.

--Aaron Besecker

NT mayor's e-mail about wetlands

North Tonawanda Mayor Robert G. Ortt has come under fire for a message he sent to the city's Environmental Committee. Here's his email:

From: Robert Ortt [mailto:robertort@northtonawanda.org]
Sent: Monday, March 08, 2010 11:43 AM
To: brianmurphy@XXXX.XXX.edu
Cc: Robert W. Welch
Subject: Meadow Drive Extension

 

Brian,

 

As you know, the Meadow Drive extension will be happening very soon.  I would like the Environmental Committee to draft a letter stating that there is no negative environmental impacts as far as they are concerned with the project, specifically regarding wetlands.  I think that this letter would serve as a show of support by our Environmental group and help with to alter  the  notion that our Environmental committee is  against progress and development.  If you have any further questions or concerns regarding this matter, please do not hesitate to contact me. 

 

Faithfully yours,

 

Robert G. Ortt

 

Robert G. Ortt

Mayor

City of North Tonawanda

CWM's sister site rejects radioactive waste

One of CWM's sister facilities in California has said no to accepting radioactive waste, the Associated Press reports.

http://www.buffalonews.com/260/story/922720.html

The company operates a hazardous waste landfill in the Town of Porter in northwest Niagara County. The facility here is the only commercial landfill of its kind in the Northeast.

More of the same expected at CWM

Despite more than $900,000 in fines levied against CWM since 1990, the company's proposal to renew its operating permit is expected to gain approval from state regulators later this year with little to no problems. Here's today's story.

There's a public meeting on the issue Thursday night in Porter Town Hall. It starts at 6 p.m., and will be hosted by CWM representatives.

This issue is separate from the company's proposal to add 30 years of new capacity to the site.

If you'd like to read deeper into the issue, here's the state Department of Environmental Conservation's page on CWM.

Click here to read about the company's existing permit at an agency page with links to the existing permit itself.

Our most recent stories involving CWM include the Town of Lewiston barring industrial waste from its sewer system, a loophole seen in a proposed state plan that could allow the company to expand, as well as public disapproval of the latest draft of a state hazardous waste plan -- on two consecutive nights.

2010.01.10 cwm blog 12982501H3798565 

In this January 2008 photo by News Photographer Derek Gee, CWM Chemical Services environmental monitoring manager Greg Zayatz, left, and environmental monitor Joe Stredny collect a sample of water for testing as it is discharged from the commercial hazardous waste landfill facility in the Town of Porter. As part of its state permit, the facility collects storm water in a pond and tests it for contaminants before and during its release to the Niagara River.

--Aaron Besecker

Power Coalition still going

Hey -- remember that group of governments and school districts in Niagara County that signed a 50-year deal with the New York Power Authority? In exchange for supporting a new federal operating license for the Niagara Power Project, they'll share $8 million annually through 2057?

Well, the Niagara Power Coalition is still around. In fact, members are meeting next Thursday, and its meetings are open to the public.

Here's the meeting agenda.

-- Aaron Besecker

Lew-Port residents can look at LOOW

Residents of Lewiston and Porter whose property was once part of the former Lake Ontario Ordnance Works can find out more about what federal regulators have planned for the investigation and cleanup of the site during a public session scheduled for Wednesday night.

The session, hosted by the Army Corps of Engineers, starts at 6 p.m. and runs through 9 p.m., in the Lewiston Senior Center, 4361 Lower River Road.

The Army Corps of Engineers have categorized more than 550 parcels that were part of the former 7,500-acre federal weapons facility (click for map) into 33 groups, based on several characteristics, including current use, location, suspected impacts by Department of Defense activities and eligibility under the federal cleanup program.

Anyone who owns land a piece of land on the former LOOW should bring the tax ID number for their parcel to help find which group it belongs in.

Click here for the evening's full agenda.

-- Aaron Besecker

Listening in at our hazardous waste ground zero

Residents of Lewiston and Porter gave state environmental regulators another earful last week.

At issue -- though representatives of the state Department of Environmental Conservation claimed otherwise -- was the future of the Northeast's only commercial hazardous waste landfill, CWM Chemical Services.

The agency was tasked with devising a plan to guide the development of hazardous waste facilities in 1987.

CWM, located on Balmer Road, has been looking for permission from the state to construct a new landfill since 2003. The company wants to add 6 million tons of capacity.

Last week's public hearings on the latest draft plan -- Wednesday night in Niagara Falls and Thursday night in Lewiston Porter High School -- gave the public its second chance to comment on the draft in two years.

In the latest draft, the state asserted it finds no need to create additional landfill capacity within New York -- something many in the local community have been arguing. Here's my story from October when the lastest draft was released.

In each of the last two drafts, regulators have also contended waste sites are distributed fairly throughout the state, even though Niagara County is home to the only commercial hazardous waste landfill in operation.

Below, you can listen to some of the comments offered at Thursday's hearing at Lew-Port.

--Aaron Besecker

Assemblywoman Francine Delmonte


Jim Ward, from Sen. George Maziarz's office


Village of Lewiston Mayor William Geiben


Niagara County Legislator John Ceretto


CWM employee Chuck Aube


Laborers Local 91 representative Robert Connolly


Teamsters Local 449 President George Harrigan


Peter Cotter, UB Environmental Law and Policy Clinic


April Fideli, president of Residents for Responsible Government


The Rev. Charles Lamb, Youngstown resident


Amy Witryol, Lewiston resident


Lewiston Supervisor Fred M. Newlin II


A portion of comments from R. Nils Olsen Jr., UB Environmental Law and Policy Clinic

Niagara and Utah: kindred spirits?

Nobody wants to live near a dump, especially when the dump is created with waste brought in from somewhere else.

That argument -- long utilized by some in Niagara County in the fight against the expansion of CWM Chemical Services' hazardous waste landfill in Lewiston and Porter -- is echoed in the fight to bring nuclear waste from outside the United States into Utah.

The Deseret News (Salt Lake City) published a story last week about a House panel's move to block a proposal to bring 20,000 tons of nuclear waste from Italy, dumping leftovers in a Utah desert.

Here's The Salt Lake Tribune's editorial on the issue.

--Aaron Besecker

Radioactive waste: facts or spin?

I wrote a story a few weeks ago about concerns a radioactive site in Lewiston was leaking.

   The story was published on the cover of the Niagara Weekend section and on buffalonews.com Sunday, July 19. Click here to give it a read.

   In the piece, members of an advisory group to federal regulators raise questions about conclusions being made about contamination found at the Niagara Falls Storage Site in Lewiston.

   I also spoke with Michelle Rhodes, the Army Corps of Engineers' acting program manager for the site, for the story.

   On Monday at 5:19 p.m., the day after the story was published, I received a mass e-mail from a staff member of the corps' community outreach team. It linked to an item the corps' Web site responding to my story. Read the full corps' response here.

   Here's some of what the corps' message:

" 'Beyond the Headlines' addresses factual errors, omissions, or misconceptions contained in media coverage about the Corps projects at the former Lake Ontario Ordnance Works Site or [Niagara Falls Storage Site]."


   No one from the corps called me or e-mailed me with any concerns about what was written in the story. The response just appeared in my inbox.

   So I called the corps to ask if anything was incorrect or misleading in my story.

   Representatives told me they wanted to "elaborate" and "clarify" their points on the issue.

   And just a note: this isn't the first time the corps has responded to a published Buffalo News story this way. They did it four times last year. Click here and scroll down to "news releases" to see them.

   The July 19 article mentions how the agency has been virtually ignoring the advisory board for more than a year, saying the group no longer meets its guidelines.

   Here's a story from last November that reveals the type of relationship that exists between regulators and community members.

   The board has been trying to enlist the help of federal, state and local lawmakers in order to regain access to information from the agency.

   -- Aaron Besecker

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