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Lockport residents hope for quick cleanup of Eighteenmile Creek

Ashley Hirtzel

The Environmental Protection Agencyoutlined its plans to clean up a heavily polluted Eighteenmile Creek at a public meeting in Lockport on Tuesday. However, some residents say they are concerned the plans won’t happen fast enough, with an official decision not scheduled until the end of September.

James Stiles and his family live on Water Street and are among five families who expect to be relocated under the EPA’s plans. He says he hasn’t been told yet when the move will happen or how much the EPA would pay for his home.

“It’s not really a dollar amount. It’s a location and being comfortable. I mean, where I was wasn’t a mansion or anything, but it was a nice quiet street with a nice little creek behind there. But 60 years of pollution and now we’re just in a bad situation, a bad spot,” said Stiles.

The plan would also see the affected homes demolished. The EPA’s Mike Basile says there has already been some remediation with six inches of clean topsoil dumped onto contaminated ground at the site.

“We’re proposing to spend about $875,000 to demolish the former Flintkote site on Mill Street and we would then be able to test underneath the concrete flooring of the building to determine if, in fact, there is any contamination under the flooring of the building,” according to Basile.

Basile says if their plans are approved, the EPA would hire an agency to help residents find a new home and get resettled. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is one possibility.

“Probably sometime in early 2014, hopefully we’ll have an agency on board that will begin to communicate and dialog with these five families,” says Basile.

James Stiles says he is pleased with the EPA’s cleanup plan and relocation, but he says as long as his family stays living near the creek, he will worry about the health of his three-year-old son.

“Right now his play space is confined to the house and it drives us crazy. But we love him and we’re just hoping for the best. As long as he’s healthy, we’re all healthy. Get us out of there and put us where we need to be and I will be happy and content,” says Stiles.

Lockport resident Pat Schrader also says he’s worried that relocated residents might suffer from health issues in the future. He is hoping for a commitment from the EPA to pay related medical expenses.

“I just wish that is could move faster, but I understand the industrial northeast corridor in the United States. There was a lot of manufacturing everywhere and there is lot and lots of problems, Love Canal, et cetera,” says Schrader.

During the meeting, many other residents who live on streets surrounding the creek expressed concern about their property also being contaminated.  

Mike Basile of the EPA says the agency is continuing to weigh the risks to the community.

“We’re going to undertake a very structured sampling plan and it’s going to be based on what’s nearby, the topography, and geography of the area, and as we embark and go upriver we will be looking at a variety of different red flags. If it is bad news then we will probably come up with a plan on how to remediate.”

The EPA is taking public comment until August 26 before signing off on the final plan.

WBFO/Western New York reporter for the Innovation Trail.
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