LOCKPORT, N.Y. (WIVB) - Eighteenmile creek runs approximately 15 miles from Lockport to Lake Ontario. In March 2012 it was named an Environmental Protection Agency Superfund Site and is now a national priority for hazardous waste clean-up. The Superfund program is the same program that helped clean up Love Canal.
Residents along Eighteenmile Creek have seen little progress from the EPA since last year.
Harold Fitzsimmons lives along the creek and calls it "pure hell." He says his house and others along Mill and Water Streets are considered possibly hazardous waste sites.
Fitzsimmons' home faces the dilapidated and contaminated Flintkote plant . "Even though they appraised my house at $53,000, I had an appraisal done on the house, and because of the letter we got from the EPA, the house is only worth about $20,000," the homeowner told News 4. He doubts he could sell his house and is concerned chemicals have seeped into the soil on his property along Mill Street. "God only knows what's in the ground," he says.
His neighbor, Shirley Nicholas, shares in the frustration. "It's pathetic, and our officials do not want to do anything," she argues.
News 4 contacted Victor Digiacomo with the Niagara County Soil and Water Conservation District. He says the concern along the creek is fairly great. "We have polychlorinated bifinals, or PCBs, within the site. They are in the site and in the creek as well. Other pollutants include mercury, dioxins, historical pesticides like DDT and we also have some heavy metals like lead and copper," Digiacomo suggests.
Digiacomo says the state of New York has been looking into the site for more than 15 years. The Flintkote property is one source of the contamination, but scientists believe there are others . The Flintkote property is now owned by Niagara County. Digiacomo explained, "When the company went out of business in 1971, they had some serious deficiencies in their taxes, and the county appropriated the property not knowing that they acquired a property with hazardous waste within it."
|See a map of the area and review proposed clean-up options for each section|
Digiacomo tells News 4 that county and New York state leaders opted to request the help of the EPA because of the sheer size of the creek .
The EPA's spokesperson for Western New York, Mike Basile, says pinpointing the sole source of any contamination will be tough, perhaps impossible. "It's going to take us awhile to try to put what I call the pieces back together of the puzzle. We have to dot our I's and cross our T's as the government. We're looking at municipality activities. We're looking at former industrial facilities, and we're also looking at current industrial facilities," Basile explains.
Basile says the government does not view the site as a threat to Lockport residents even though it was added to the Superfund Site list only a year ago. He said, "I do not think there is an immediate threat for the kids and people that live next to this creek." He couldn't offer specific advice for residents about whether they should stay out of the soil, for example. However, scientists have issued a "fish consumption advisory" for Eighteenmile Creek.
Residents Call For Action
Fitzsimmons told News 4 the EPA should come to his property across the street from the creek . "I want my yard tested. I want to know what's there. I want to know if my house is worth anything," he begged several weeks ago.
"It's been a nightmare. Get us some help. Keep the pressure on," pleased Nicholas.
Two weeks after News 4 visited the area in late February, EPA scientists showed up and starting taking soil samples from homes on Mill and Water street. Basile says the samples are part of the remedial investigation which is the first part of a Superfund clean-up.
Basile tells News 4 any clean-up work is likely 18 months away. He declined to discuss costs, but the New York Department of Environmental Conservation has offered several options . Basile says, "[Federal] plans could involve such things as maybe doing some dredging. Maybe there's more problems along the shorelines of both private property and municipal and industrial property, so these are the things, and we will present it to the public."
Basile says priority one is the area where people live. The EPA is dividing the creek into sections to make the clean up more manageable. The EPA plans a community meeting later this spring.
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