MIDDLEPORT, N.Y. (WIVB) - A massive arsenic cleanup project could affect the entire village of Middleport. The soil in yards, gardens and even a school campus may have to be dug up and carted away.
The NY State DEC wants to remove soil from 181 properties in the village where previous EPA testing has shown elevated levels of arsenic. The properties include homes, commercial lots, and the Royalton-Hartland Central Schools.
Middleport is similar in size to about 500 football fields.
"Our cleanup level would be 20 parts per million, which is the background level in this area of Niagara County," said NYS DEC Engineer Robert Schick.
The excess arsenic came from the FMC pesticide plant in the village. To get rid of it, workers would have to dig up and truck away the soil and dispose of it in a commercial landfill or a special area on the FMC site.
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Schick said, "It will take some time. We estimate that it would be done in about five years. It may require multiple crews."
FMC has done some remedial work in the past, but not over such a large area.
FMC Spokesman Robert Forbes said, "We've addressed the major issues in Middleport already that need to be remediated. We've addressed them and our risk assessment suggests that their isn't a concern here and there is no benefit from further removal of the arsenic."
Middleport resident Patrick Cousins listened to the different remedial plans presented by the DEC Wednesday evening, but wasn't swayed. He believes the project would have more drawbacks than benefits.
"The only route of exposure is ingestion. So you would have to eat the soil. It's not in the water; you'd have to eat the soil," he argued.
Other residents, however, remain concerned about safety.
Royalton Supervisor Jennifer Bieber said, "You cannot find enough hours in the day to explain away that soil is not safe in someone's yard and it's safe in an area in the town behind the schoolyard. Perception is reality."
The public comment period on this project runs through July 30th and people can submit their comments through the DEC website. After that, the DEC will go through the comments and expect to make a final decision later on this fall, if not, certainly by the end of the calendar year.
If the DEC does decide to do remedial work, FMC has said it will pay up to $25 million towards the project.
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