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Significant cost expected to clean up former metal recycling facility on Bank Street

The cost will be significant to clean up a former industrial property at 301 Bank St., Batavia, but it will be the state that picks up the bill, the City Council learned Monday night.

Some 4,000 tons of solid waste needs to be removed and another 20,000 tons of contaminated soil must be dug out and trucked to Texas for incineration.

The current owner of the property, Batavia Waste Material Co., Inc., went into bankruptcy in the mid-1990s. The city could have filed a tax-lien foreclosure in 1999, but the risk was the city would take on the responsibility for clean up of any contamination.

For more than 50 years, the property was used as an iron and metal recycling facility, so the possibility of contamination seemed likely.

"From a city perspective, the situation first involved a Hobson's Choice," said City Attorney George Van Nest. "What do you do? Do you foreclose and maintain municipal ownership, or do you leave it alone for the next 100 years."

The city found a middle way in the early 2000s -- apply for a state grant to hire a consultant to do an environmental assessment and come up with a plan for cleanup. 

Working with the Department of Environmental Conservation, the city hired GZA GeoEnvironmental of New York, based in Buffalo, to take on the study and develop the plan.

It's been a slow process, at a cost of more than $200,000 (city share, 10 percent) because DEC officials have had to approve it each step along the way.

Fieldwork was conducted between January 2006 and December 2010. There were 22 test pits dug, 50 soil probes, seven monitoring wells sunk and some 130 soil, sediment, surface water and groundwater samples collected.

The result -- some significant contamination on some portion of the property, including lead and PCB.

Already, some 40 tons of soil laced with PCB and pesticides have been removed and incinerated in Texas, just to take care of the most pressing issues.

Now the DEC is considering a full-on cleanup and will hold a public meeting at 6:30 p.m., March 20, to present its findings and gather public input. A final "record of decision" will be released March 31.

The cleanup, called remediation, is expected to take as long as 10 years, but when completed, the city will be able to finally foreclose on the property -- valued at about $190,000 -- and then sell it to the highest bidder. CORRECTION: The entire prodcess, starting in 2004, is a 10-year process, so officials expect completion in 2014.

The property is zoned for residential development.

As for who pays for the cleanup, the DEC will use money from the state's Inactive Hazardous Waste Disposal Site Superfund, a pot of money collected from fines and fees paid by polluters. 

Part of the Superfund process for a site cleanup is identifying a "responsible party" who will then be billed to remediate the current site.

"This is the best case, because we don't have to take over the property and be responsible for the cleanup and assume the cost of the cleanup," City Manager Jason Molino said. "In time, we can turn it into residential property."

Top photo: Chris Baron, consultant with GZA GeoEnvironmental.

Robert Brown
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So despite NY's seemingly infinite list of regulations, a business is permitted to exist and thoroughly pollute its property while making how many millions along the way, then conveniently close up shop and leave a dump for someone else to clean up? Who got fined for that mess and conscious acts of negligence? And the city (meaning us) coughed up $20K for a study? Bogus! It's all well and good that some of the clean up is funded through a pot of fines, but why isn't the chain of ownership held responsible for what they have done? Imagine the waste in fuel, time, etc... to take care of someone else's mess. Is that really the American way? Irresponsibility and disregard for others (environment, etc...) is not the spirit of capitalism.

10 more years of this eyesore in a residential neighborhood that gets tons of visibility due to the events held at Dwyer stadium next year is frankly pathetic. Looking good Batavia!

Once the dust settles, I hope a couple of things are examined before turning the dump into a residential property:

1 - Additional parking at Dwyer Stadium (several cars already park in front of the dump which means more cars forced out into the double packed streets for events).

2 - A new back road to the current high school property to alleviate the daily logjam on State St.

Irene Will
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Turn it into a residential property ??? I sure as hell wouldn't live there. To me, that would be almost like trusting them to clean it up better than they did Love Canal. Sure they will.

Mark Brudz
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Mr. Brown

You wrote:
" a business is permitted to exist and thoroughly pollute its property while making how many millions along the way then conveniently close up shop and leave a dump for someone else to clean up?,"

I didn't realize that Bankruptcy was profitable and conveint

Then you wrote;
"Who got fined for that mess and conscious acts of negligence?"

Well the operated as metal recycling facility for 50 years, much of it, just by the calendar, long before many of those regulations were in place, and I am willing to bet much before the scientific consequences were known, conscious acts of negligence means intentional disregard for safety, Well I recall as a child in the 50's and 60's that many, many things that were common practice then, are now considered dangerous and a threat to health, perhaps 'Scientific Ignorance' would be a better term.

Finally you wrote;
"10 more years of this eyesore in a residential neighborhood that gets tons of visibility due to the events held at Dwyer stadium next year is frankly pathetic."

Well, the city council in the early 2000's explored the possibilities both from a liability standpoint and a cost standpoint as clearly stated in the article.

So I ask, considering that the company is bankrupt and no longer exist, considering that there has been no evidence publically stated that at the time the company operated was in fact in violation of any law or regulation, and if judged by today's laws and regulation should that be imposed retroactively? And exactly what would you have done differently if you were on the council in the early 2000's or now for that matter?

I like your ideas for the property once the dust settles, both make good sense.

It is truly sad that not only here, but all over the nation communities are faced with situations just like this, we are NOT alone here in Batavia. And God only knows that I agree with you that it is a big mess, but I fail to see where the city was at fault and/or acted improperly in this matter.

Your carefully chosen words however, appear more to be a campaign speech then a fact laden argument.

Do not confuse this with me being in support of that company or what they did, frankly it disgust me, But again I ask, what exactly did the city so wrong and just what could they have done differently without prolonging the situation and adding considerably more expense, not to mention legal liability?

Doug Yeomans
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Wouldn't it be less costly to build an incinerator here than to truck 20,000 tons of soil to Texas? 40 tons of soil would make up a load for a hauler, but 20,000 tons is 500 loads. Even if each load COULD make it to Texas @ $1000, That'd be $500,000.00. A fully loaded hauler would easily use 300 gallons of diesel to cover 1800 miles @ 6 MPG and that's just one way. 300 gallons @ $4.30 per gallon = $1290 for fuel per haul (one way) plus what the hauler wants for each mile to transport hazardous waste.

Build the incinerator locally and return the soil to its original place. The incinerator could then be used to generate income by using it to sanitize soil from other cleanup sites.

Robert Brown
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Mark,

I didn't say the city did anything wrong. You and I are essentially on the same page for this one. The prior owners may have gone bankrupt as a business but I guarantee you they all made money, LOTS of money before going out of business. I am not convinced they operated on a guilt free didn't know better basis either. I'm pretty sure that place existed in the '80s and there were plenty of regulations in place then.

So what did go wrong? Maybe the city or whomever puts all the regulations in place and demands all the licensing fees should have been inspecting and testing annually. Does that cost money? Yep! Should businesses in the business of dealing with potentially hazardous materials and contamination be footing the bill for such inspections? You bet! Such should be the cost of doing business.

When a company incorporates to "protect" the people behind it, they ought to be insured, at their expense, to cover the liabilities germane to the business. As you mentioned, this is just one example of probably thousands and maybe more of negligence on the parts of the people running the businesses. All I expect is that people act responsibly - making a boat load of money over many years, then bankrupting a business and walking away free and clear with no obligations on a mess left behind is irresponsible.

Mark Brudz
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In perspective Robert, the business was a Junk yard, a relatively small junk yard at that, that is what metal recycling is.

I know of two old junk yards in seemingly abandoned but actually bankrupt on RT 33 alone.

What I took you to imply was that this was a willful disregard of public safety, I don't see this particular case to be of that nature at all, It's not edron we are talking about, it is a small junk yard that ran out of money.

On the bigger picture, we might be very close to agreement, but not this particular location

DOUGLAS MCCLURG
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My weakly 2 cents:I am saddened as a local for profit business.May I destroy the land and then walk away and not be held accountable?
4000 tons at 200 plus a ton is a million dollars...With the rules and regulations these days.I can hardly believe this was let to happen?

John Roach
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Robert,
You make an assumption that the owners made a "boatload of money". You also make it sound like they bankrupted the company intentionally to walk away. That may or may not be true. It could also be true that they just could not meet expenses anymore with the changing laws and regulations. There were times when scrap metal did not bring in much. It could also be they just were lousy business owners.

Mark Brudz
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Doug

1) 4000 tons includes the building I do believe

2) The contaminants they speak of are present at every junk yard closed or existing, and even in some tractor graveyards on farms, they are the result of old cars trucks and equipment decaying in weather and/or being dismantled for scrap

3) Again, the business went bankrupt in the mid 90"s was in business since the late 40's over 50 years of operation most of it 30 years before any of these regulations existed and certainly like most old scrap yards grandfathered in at that.

This is an unfortunate situation, but why are we so quick to assume that it was generated by greed and/or a lack of government oversight?

I would like to point out once more, in the 40's, 50's 60's and early 70's when this business was it's hay day, it most likely was operating just like every other business of it's type in it's day, the assumption that they made millions and just walked away is plain wrong.

Mark Brudz
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Thanks for clarifying that point Howard.

Ross Jarvela
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However the process goes, once the site is cleaned up, the best possible uses have been tabled already. The idea of using this site for anything other than the ones listed by Robert Brown would be counter to the interests of the community.

Additional parking for Dwyer Stadium events? Have you ever tried to travel down Bank street during a game? Obviously, there is insufficient off-street parking. Encountering traffic directly in front of this site makes for a tight squeeze, at best.

Another means of entry and exit from the High School? If you don't currently have any kids attending BHS, you have no idea what a mess it is to navigate into and out of the school grounds. This problem seems to have gotten worse over the last few years. Traffic control on the loop has been abandoned for some reason and you cannot avoid the traffic jam if you are picking up or dropping off.

To be able to cure both of these issues would certainly have my approval. The people who live in the immediate vicinity would surely appreciate it most.

Robert Brown
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"For more than 50 years, the property was used as an iron and metal recycling facility..."

I maintain that it is a very reasonable assumption that the owners of the business made money for the majority of the time the business was in operation. The exact amount is irrelevant. Sorry for using "how many millions" for effect. The point is, somebody made money and stuck the citizens with a bill. However the company made its way into bankruptcy is of little consequence. Whether or not the owners knew what the risks were in the '40s, '50s, and '60s really doesn't matter. THEY made the mess. From the '70s through the '90s there certainly was enough information abound for the owners to be in the know. People used the property, people polluted the property, people left the property with a mess (visual and otherwise). And others are supposed to be responsible for that?

OK, so the "city share" was about $20K for the study. Whether or not the city recoups that from sale of the property remains to be seen. I'm skeptical. As discussed, there are more effective uses for the property than selling it anyway. The funding source for the other $190K of the study cost is not clear. Was it from the fine fund or from taxpayer dollars?

Doug's thoughts on doing something locally to remedy this situation and others like it are interesting. Could something be done locally that reduces the overall cleanup expense or makes use of the cache of fine money locally instead of it being used to purchase fuel to truck tons of material cross country?

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