Investigate Producer: Dan Telvock
Photographer: Jeff Helmick
A quick drive along Forbes Street near the North Tonawanda-Wheatfield border, and it’s clear that residents there want answers.
The quiet residential street is lined with “Toxic Waste” signs. Cory D’Agostino’s is probably the biggest.
A few years ago, he and other neighbors learned the Niagara Sanitation Landfill, which once housed Love Canal waste, was to be classified as a Superfund site.
Since then, D’Agostino feels the state has done little to ease his mind or protect his family’s health.
Not everyone is a fan of his public protest.
“They’ll drive by, ‘take the sign down.’ I am not going to take this sign down until I’m fully convinced.”
Convinced that toxic chemicals aren’t inside his home. D’Agostino told News 4 he is certain there are.
He’s lived on Forbes Street in North Tonawanda for 12 years.
Back then, he had no idea the landfill behind his property would become a Superfund site.
“I would have never bought my home. I don’t think anybody would have,” he told News 4.
The waste has since been removed, but many residents including D’Agostino believe toxic chemicals have migrated onto their properties and over the years, seeped into their homes.
The state DEC and the Department of Health have said that’s not the case.
“I think one of the discrepancies is, is that they haven’t investigated all the pathways. We believe that this material is coming in through the ground water,” said attorney Michael Stagg of law firm Stag Liuzza. He’s representing D’Agostino and several other families on Forbes Street in a class action lawsuit.
“I have a 13-year-old daughter, my oldest son. You know he’s got health issues, my daughter has health issues, my wife, I do,” D’Agostino told News 4 outside his Forbes Street home.
We spoke to one of D’Agostino’s neighbors in August.
Sarah Kraus, who moved to Forbes Street from Love Canal in the early 80s, has also been plagued with health issues. She had a tumor removed in 2012.
“It was a one pound tumor. It has entangled all of my reproductive organs so I ended up with a full hysterectomy,” Kraus said in August.
Like the Krauses, D’Agostino’s concerns are only heightened by the gunk he finds in his basement.
“It comes out of the sides here,” he said, pointing to a dark gray and black oily mixture in his drainage pump.
“I don’t mess with it. The lawyers, everybody says stay away from it, get out.”
The D’Agostinos and other Forbes Street families are suing class the Town of Wheatfield, which owns the landfill, and the companies that dumped their waste there years ago.
Stagg told News 4 his ultimate goal is to have Forbes Street families compensated for their homes, and moved away from the landfill.
Eventually the Town of Wheatfield had a chain think fence put up around the site, in an effort to keep people off the property.
D’Agostino wants a sign along the fence warning people that they’re walking near a potentially toxic Superfund site. Right now there’s not one.
“My son used to hunt back there, fish back there. There’s ponds back there that would never freeze in January or February, December. Never froze.”
Stagg’s firm did private testing inside D’Agostino’s home and of his backyard soil.
“What we found was chemicals that are related to that landfill, and are consistent with Love Canal waste. We found dioxins, PCBs and pesticides.”
D’Agostino wants the state DEC or the Department of Health to test inside his home, something both agencies have refused to do so far, noting that previous tests done outside show the landfill is not contaminating private property.
“Until I see come in and test the inside of our homes, then I would be satisfied, to get the results,” he said.
Since naming the Niagara Satiation Landfill a Superfund site, the DEC has conducted surface testing on the outside of D’Agostino’s property.
“It was low levels of PCBs, low levels,” D’Agostino said of the DEC’s tests.
“We just don’t have all of the DEC’s testing. For some reason they haven’t released everything to us. They told us they were going to have it many many months ago and we still don’t have the testing that we did, we don’t have the reports,” Stagg told us.
In a statement, a DEC spokesperson said:
“DEC remains committed to ensuring the public is protected from sites such as the Niagara Sanitation landfill, and our top priority is always generating the necessary scientific accurate data to drive our response. DEC’s comprehensive investigation of the Niagara Sanitation Landfill in the town of Wheatfield, which included expanded surface soil, subsurface soil, and groundwater sampling conducted at properties both on- and off-site, indicates that landfill contaminants do not present an off-site exposure concern to neighboring properties. DEC is currently finalizing a comprehensive report detailing our findings and will share the results with community residents and other stakeholders at a public availability session this fall. Details of the session are being finalized and we will soon announce a public availability session which will provide residents the opportunity to ask questions and get more information on the investigation.”
We reached out to the Department of the Health again. A spokesperson told us the DOH has “reviewed extensive data collected by DEC and confirms that as contamination has not migrated off-site onto private properties, interior testing is not warranted.”
“It’s horrible. It’s heartbreaking as a father to see my daughter. It’s disgusting it really is. That hurts me,” D’Agostino said.