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Wednesday, July 9, 2014 at 4:31 pm

Rep. Collins calls proposed EPA rules on waterways 'overreach,' a burden on agriculture

post by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, chris collins, environment, NY-27

Press release:

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) today questioned Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Deputy Administrator, Honorable Robert W. Perciasepe, at a Science, Space, and Technology Committee hearing on the EPA’s overreaching rule proposal entitled “Definition of the ‘Waters of the United States’ Under the Clean Water Act.”

“The problem is the public doesn't trust the EPA, farmers don't trust the EPA not to overreach, Congress doesn't trust the EPA,” said Congressman Collins during today’s hearing.

“Deputy Administrator Perciasepe and the EPA fail to recognize that their agency’s overreach is causing real harm for farmers and stalling business development across our country,” Congressman Collins said. “When I visit with farmers in my district, the heavy burdens under the Clean Water Act come up each and every time. When the bureaucrats at the EPA decide to call a divot in the ground that fills with rain a ‘navigable waterway’ under the CWA, we know our federal government has run amuck. The fact that the EPA and U.S. Army Corp of Engineers are now looking to formally broaden the definition of ‘navigable waters’ is an insult to hard working farmers all across this country.”

Saturday, May 31, 2014 at 2:30 pm

After fish kill in Chapin Lagoon, O-AT-KA Milk notified by DEC to improve spill prevention

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, environment, O-AT-KA Milk Products

O-AT-KA Milk Products was issued a notice of violation by the DEC on April 24 for chemicals and waste materials being spilled into a lagoon south of Ellicott Street.

The company is complying with all DEC demands and requirements for dealing with spills from its dairy processing plant at the corner of Cedar and Ellicott streets, said David Crisp, director of business development for O-AT-KA.

The spills were brought to the attention of the DEC by Attica resident John Volpe (pictured above), a Native American well known locally for his environmental work.

Volpe said he's concerned about the health and well being of the fish, turtles, frogs and other wildlife in the lagoon, which is part of a 110-acre wildlife refuge owned by Chapin Manufacturing. The creatures, Volpe said, are part of the chain of life.

"This is how we look at our own life," Volpe said. "These are our teachers. All of our relations means just that. They’re all of our relations. You don’t leave out a worm or an eagle or whatever. We’re supposed to watch it and we’re supposed to protect it. That’s one of our jobs as among the people who walk this earth. It should be everybody’s job."

Volpe shared documents he said show serious environmental damage to the lagoon, including photos of more than 100 dead fish and dissection photos taken of dead animals -- such as turtles, frogs and fish -- showing medical issues (Volpe emphasized several times that he and his helpers never killed any animals, but merely took for samples and evidence animals they found dead).

The DEC letter accuses O-AT-KA of violating its SPDES (State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permit and three sections of environmental law.

The letter specifically accuses O-AT-KA of causing a drop in water quality standards for pH, solids and water color from spills on at least six separate occasions. The spills, according to the DEC, contained milk and/or cleaning solutions.

The letter also specifically cites a fish kill of various species April 15.

O-AT-KA was accused of discharging water that causes or contributes to conditions in violation of state code; discharging industrial waste in violation of state code; and discharging pollutants at a frequency or volume in excess of permitted standards.

The company was given until May 7 a turn over a document called "Best Management Practices" as well as a summary of response actions, investigations and corrective measures taken for each reported spill since August 2013. 

By yesterday, O-AT-KA was required to complete a facility review and submit a corrective action plan designed to prevent or minimize potential damage from future spills.

The DEC also required O-AT-KA to install a continuous recording pH meter.

Crisp said O-AT-KA has been fully compliant with the DEC's requirements, an assertion confirmed by Linda Vera, spokeswoman for the DEC in WNY. 

"O-AT-KA has taken a number of actions to mitigate and prevent additional discharges," Vera said.

Crisp said a DEC official was on hand one day recently when an alarm sounded from the new system indicating there was an increase in pH in the outflow line to the discharge pipe and the officials saw firsthand that plant workers responded immediately to correct the problem.

"It really comes down to how dedicated O-AT-KA is to the highest level of environmental protection," Crisp said. "That's why we're working with the DEC to assure O-AT-KA is in compliance with the SPDES permit."

There were two spills of milk, Vera said. One in August and another in October. She said steps were taken to prevent future spills and there have been no similar discharges since October.

"The remaining incidents were related to cleaning solution discharges," Vera said. "Action was taken after each incident to determine the source, and O-AT-KA added monitoring equipment and changed practices to mitigate the issue. During DEC's early May inspection, the probable source was identified. A deteriorated flooring in one of production areas allowed cleaning/disinfection solution to seep into a deteriorated pipe beneath floor. O-AT-KA is taking necessary actions to repair piping and floor."

It's still possible O-AT-KA could be fined for the spills, but the DEC has made no determination yet on further enforcement actions, Vera said.

One source we spoke to for this story suggested we look at the notice of violation delivered to O-AT-KA in context of how many DEC violation notices are handed out locally in a year, suggesting that there's nothing remarkable about a company getting a letter of violation.

According to the DEC's database of spills, there have been 76 incidents reported in the past 12 months in Genesee County. Eight of those have been tied to O-AT-KA, which more than any other source in the county. Only three of those spills -- where the size of the spill is known -- involve 100 gallons or more, and two of those involve O-AT-KA. Those are a spill of 125 gallons of milk product in August 2013 and 3,000 gallons of sodium hydroxide in January.

There were 48 incidents countywide reported in the prior 12 months, none involving O-AT-KA.

The series of spills has been a concern to Chapin, CEO Jim Campbell said, and company officials have met several times with O-AT-KA officials to review the measures taken to prevent future problems.

The 110-acre preserve includes nature trails available to employees and the area is teaming with wildlife, Campbell said. Andris Chapin, a family owner and chairman of the board, is keenly aware of environment issues, Campbell said, and once a year takes interested employees on a nature trail walk through the preserve. 

The company also has an environmental manager. He is Mark Volpe, who is also the plant manager and is John Volpe's brother.

Campbell said Chapin is confident O-AT-KA is responding appropriately. It's his understanding, he said, that O-AT-KA has spent more than $100,000 on preventative measures. He said O-AT-KA has recently brought in new executives with a good deal of technical experience in environmental issues.

"They've done a great job and have a great solution in place," Campbell said.

John and Mark Volpe started monitoring and measuring the Chapin's 110-acre habitat in 2008, acquiring and maintaining detailed records on the species and quality of life in the preserve.

It was through that process that John Volpe became increasingly concerned about spills from the O-AT-KA plant, which he said go back further than the August 2013 date covered by the DEC letter.

As he saw more and more environmental damage to the lagoon, he began raising concerns to the DEC, to the point, he believes, that some officials at the DEC started trying to avoid his phone calls.

In his workshop at his home in Attica, Volpe showed dozens of presentation boards displaying charts and tables documenting discharge dates, water temperatures, pH readings and photos of dissected animals and dead fish.

When Volpe found dead fish, he and his helpers photographed where each fish was found, collected them, brought them back to Attica, weighed and identified the species of each fish and photographed each one individually.

The dead fish included sunfish, bullhead and bass.

The DEC was slow to act on contamination issues at the lagoon, contends Volpe.

"Why didn’t the DEC do this and cite them sooner so maybe these fish would still be alive?" Volpe said. "This is not the first fish kill. We’ve had other fish kills."

Volpe's wife caught in a net one bass near death. It was blind, had lost all its slime and was emaciated. The Volpes have nursed it back to health. It's eating again and its eyes have cleared of the haze that covered the pupils. The fish has become more active in its tank.

The blindness and loss of slime is a result of a high pH in the water as well as sodium hydroxide and hydrogen peroxide reaching the lagoon.

Volpe is also concerned about the water temperature in the lagoon, which he said was above 60 degrees in March (he takes the water temperature every day) and the turtles and frogs need the water below at least 50 degrees to hibernate.

There is also evidence of frogs "toxing out," Volpe said. The toxins in the water cause their legs to shoot straight out, become rigid and they can't jump. Eventually, they die.

Volpe was arrested in February and accused of illegal possession of protected turtles and birds of prey. 

The DEC had known for years and years about Volpe's conservation efforts involving wildlife, his friend and supporter Mike Bastine said during a meeting at Volpe's house. It was only after Volpe started making waves about O-AT-KA that the DEC decided to come down hard on Volpe.

"If you look at the implications from the spills that he has documented, that has a much greater impact on the environment than the violations they subjected him to," Bastine said. "Is the issue really about protecting the environment and the animals and the life around us? No, not really.

"They think if they can shut that part of his work down, he's going to go away and say, 'they beat me,' that he'll have to throw in the towel because he can't defend himself. They're hounding us saying we need a permit to hold a feather or care for turtles, but that's our responsibility and that's our custom. It's our job. It's our duty to step in an assist."

In her e-mail response to a series of questions, Vera did not respond to the accusation that Volpe has been targeted for enforcement because of his O-TA-KA complaints.

She said the DEC had been monitoring O-AT-KA independently of Volpe, but found his work helpful. 

"DEC's actions have been ongoing, and are not dependent on Mr. Volpe's findings," Vera said. "However, some of the discharges discovered by Mr. Volpe, have provided assistance in mitigating the discharges and investigating potential sources."

Volpe said he's also concerned because the lagoon sits over the Batavia's aquifer. All of the city's water is pumped from wells in the area. He thinks the contaminants could seep into the aquifer.

City Manager Jason Molino said that really isn't a concern. Even if any contaminants reached the aquifer, the city treats all of its water before it's distributed.

Molino's confident, he said, the DEC has things under control.

"We've spoken with O-AT-KA and the DEC," Molino said. "I think the DEC is aware of the situation and has responded to it and are in constant communication with O-AT-KA. Otherwise, it's outside our jurisdiction."

This photo is from Genesee County's GIS map. The photographs that comprise the map were taken in April 2013. The Chapin Lagoon is in the lower left. O-AT-KA's plant is in the upper right. There is a dirt road that Hanson Aggregates uses running from Ellicott Street. Beside it is a drainage ditch, which apparently is how runoff from O-AT-KA reaches the lagoon. We have no confirmation of what the milky white substance is in the lagoon, but there is no spill around that time period reported in the DEC database.

Sign by drainage pipe that runs under Ellicott Street to a stream that runs to the Chapin Lagoon.

One of the no trespassing signs marking the property line of Chapin's 110-acre wildlife refuge.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014 at 11:57 am

Several wells in Batavia-Oakfield, Lewiston Road area test positive for bacteria

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, environment, Oakfield, water

Press release:

Several of the initial water samples collected this week from private drinking water wells located near Batavia-Oakfield Townline Road -- east of Route 63, and Lewiston Road south of Batavia-Oakfield Townline Road -- have confirmed bacteriological contamination of coliform bacteria and E. coli. Residents who had their water tested and confirmed positive have been notified at this time. These organisms can cause diarrhea, cramps, nausea, headaches, or other symptoms. They may pose a special health risk for infants and people with compromised immune systems. Residents in this area who are experiencing these symptoms should contact their medical provider.

Although the contamination has been confirmed, the exact origin and extent cannot be determined without further analysis, the Genesee County Health Department will assist the Department of Environmental Conservation in this process in the near future.

Impacted residents are urged to continue to follow the instructions below until their water can be confirmed safe to drink. With the extent of the contamination unknown at this time, re-occurrence of contamination is possible.

If you are living in the identified area and would like your well water tested, please contact the Genesee County Health Department at (585) 344-2580, ext. 5525. There is no charge for this testing.

Monday, March 17, 2014 at 7:40 pm

One contaminated well on Batavia-Oakfield Townline Road led to boil water advisory

A single positive well test Friday set off an alert for residents in the area of Batavia-Oakfield Townline Road and Lewiston Road to boil their drinking and cooking water, officials confirmed this afternoon.

The test found bacteria in the well water of a single residence on Batavia-Oakfield Townline Road, said George Squires, manager of the Genesee County Soil and Water Conservation District.

"It may be attributed to some manure spreading that may have gone on in the area," Squires said. "I was out of town all last week and just found out Friday myself. I don't have a lot of details because I've not been out there myself yet. I spoke briefly with a farmer and his consultant this morning and the health department this afternoon. I don't have a lot of details and I don't feel comfortable about making any conclusions yet."

County Health Director Paul Pettit said the affected area is no more than 25 parcels.

"We haven't pinpointed the exact source," Pettit said. "We wanted to alert the residents of those houses right around that area that there may be an issue with wells in the area."

There was a communication miscue on Friday, Pettit said. The health department alerted the Emergency Dispatch Center and the Emergency Services Office with the expectation that the alert they drafted would be sent only to the affected 25 or so residents. There was no intention to send out a media release, since it was such a small section of the county. Instead, the alert was sent out countywide and regional TV stations mistakenly reported that there was a boil water advisory for all of Genesee County.

The confusion led today to the City of Batavia putting out its own announcement informing residents that there is no boil water advisory for the city.

The communication Friday is "something we need to review and look at," Pettit said.

Both Squires and Pettit discussed the difficulty farmers face this time of year. They're eager to prepare crop lands for tillage and planting, which requires properly timed manure spreading, but there are also regulations for larger farmers that govern when they can do it.

"Larger farms are supposed to monitor weather and predict significant melting events," Squires said. "They're not supposed to spread in advance of an event like that. This time of a year, predicting warm temperatures in advance gets to be a little bit of a challenge."

It's a violation of a farm's permit, Squires said, to contaminate ground or surface water.

There may have been one or two other spills in county recently, Squires said, but there's been complaints about wells elsewhere in the county (Squires said he didn't have details yet; the spills could have been in areas that are already on public water, therefore well water wouldn't be contaminated).

"I need to get ahold of the DEC and find out what's going on," Squires said.

A week ago, a reader in Oakfield contacted The Batavian to complain about a possible manure spill. We requested info from the DEC but have not received any further information. Neither Squires nor Pettit were aware of any reported spills in the area prior to the well complaint received on Friday.The single well on Batavia-Oakfield Townline Road is the only confirmed instance of well contamination at this time.

For more on what to do when a boil water advisory is issued for your area, click here.

UPDATE: Here's a map of the affected area, provided by the County Health Department.

Friday, March 14, 2014 at 5:34 pm

Alert issued over possible manure spill in Batavia-Oakfield area

post by Howard B. Owens in agriculture, county health department, environment, health

There is apparently a recommendation for a small number of Genesee County residents to boil their household water because of a possible manure spill in the area of Batavia Oakfield Townline Road and Lewiston Road.

The announcement came from the NY-Alert system, not from the County Health Department.

The announcement was released just before the health department closed for the weekend, though it contained information to call the health department for further information.

The announcement says, "At this time, the extent of the contamination is unknown and we would therefore recommend that you boil tap water in your home or use bottled water for drinking and cooking. If your well water quality changes as noticed by color and/or smell, immediately stop using it for all household uses other than flushing toilets."

The first version of the announcement was a recommendation for all Genesee County residents to boil water, then a second version said the spill was in the area of Batavia-Oakfield Townline Road and Lewiston Road.

Because the health department is closed, no further information is available at this time.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013 at 7:45 pm

Collins faults Cuomo for fracking delays

post by Howard B. Owens in chris collins, environment, fracking, NY-27

Press release:

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) criticized Governor Andrew Cuomo today on the House floor for continually delaying hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in New York.

Congressman Collins was speaking in support of legislation to limit the ability of the Obama Administration to regulate fracking. The Protecting States’ Rights to Promote American Energy Security Act (H.R. 2728), which Congressman Collins voted for, prevents the federal government from imposing new and burdensome fracking regulations on states.

“In New York we are already facing significant challenges in regards to fracking at the state level. We do not need additional, burdensome federal regulations like those proposed by the Obama Administration, which are over-the-top and step all over the state’s authority to regulate this type of activity,” Congressman Collins said. “Federal ‘one size fits all’ regulations are designed to wrap fracking efforts in endless red tape which will do nothing but slow job creation, decrease domestic energy production and increase the cost of business. “

“States should control their own destiny when it comes to fracking,” continued Collins. “In New York, I remain baffled as to why Governor Cuomo continues to cater to the state’s fringe anti-business interests by upholding the moratorium on fracking. Across the border in Pennsylvania, the economy is growing leaps and bounds because they are taking full advantage of their strategic location along the Marcellus Shale. It is sad that New York is squandering this same opportunity.”

It is estimated that, if finalized, the new regulations being proposed by the Obama Administration will cost $345 million annually or $96,913 per fracking well.

The Protecting States’ Rights to Promote American Energy Security Act also places parameters on a current Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study related to fracking and potential impact on drinking water resources. The bill’s provisions will help ensure the EPA study produces an objective evaluation.

“There is a real and legitimate fear that the bloated bureaucracy at the EPA will once again produce an open-ended, biased and non-transparent study,” Collins said. “For any study to be helpful to both decision-makers and scientists, it needs to contain an objective risk assessment.”

Thursday, May 30, 2013 at 2:15 pm

Where there's a will to make Greek yogurt, there's whey left over

post by Howard B. Owens in Alpina, business, environment

You can make Greek yogurt at home. About all you need is some yogurt culture, a whisk and cheese cloth.

After you strain your batch you're left with a watery white liquid known as whey. You will have about three ounces of whey for every ounce of yummy yogurt.

One Web site lists 18 possible uses for whey in your home, whether as a substitute for other liquids in cooking or as a skin care product. But for Alpina, which produces 245,000 tons of Greek yogurt a week, getting rid of the 455,000 tons of whey a week isn't that simple.

Right now, the whey is hauled to a facility in Wyoming County where it is digested into methane and used to generate electricity, but Alpina is exploring other options for dealing with whey.

Whey has become controversial in media reports over the past week or so. It started with a well-researched and reported story in Modern Farmer about the Greek yogurt boom with an unfortunate headline, given the substance of the story: Whey Too Much: Greek Yogurt’s Dark Side.

The story was far from frightening, but outlets such as Fox News and USA Today turned it into overblown headlines such as Toxic waste from Greek yogurt poses danger to waterways and Greek yogurt's dirty little secret.

What's this dark side, this toxic danger, this dirty little secret? 

If whey goes into a stream or lake, bacteria will boom and suck all the oxygen out of the water, killing all the fish.

But there are no reports of any whey from Greek yogurt being illegally dumped. In fact, the Modern Farmer story details both the responsible methods for disposing of it now and explores research into other possible uses.

Disposing of whey in a responsible manner is important to Alpina, said Roger Parkhurst, director of operations for the Batavia plant.

Labeling whey "toxic waste" is the kind of statement that could be said about a lot of substances, Parkhurst said.

"You could apply the term to gasoline," Parkhurst said. "We put it in our car and it's beneficial, but if it's abused it becomes a dangerous material. We handle whey right and in a responsible manner so that it isn't a danger."

Beneficial uses for whey include converting it to an energy source -- which Alpina does now -- or using it to supplement cattle feed, which Alpina is also exploring.

Alpina would love to sell its whey, so that the money spent to haul it off can instead become a source of revenue. A Cornell researcher is studying methods for turning whey into a baby formula supplement. That work is promising, Parkhurst said.

Whey could also become a direct energy source for the Alpina plant, saving the company money. 

Parkhurst said the company is interested -- though has no specific plans -- in finding a way to digest whey on site and convert the methane into electricity and convert the heat from the process into heat for Alpina's building.

Mark Masse, vp of operations for Genesee County Economic Development Center, said companies have contacted the agency about building a digester at or near the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park, including working directly with Alpina, but it has never received a formal application.

"I am not sure why any of those projects haven’t moved forward yet," said Masse in an e-mail response to a question, "but my best guess is that they can’t secure a long-term contract for the waste product, and/or that these digester projects are very capital intensive and they usually try to secure NYSERDA grants to help defer these capital costs to shorten the payback period of the project and can’t secure those grants."

There are also concerns about any environmental risks associated with a digester located at a food processing park that sits above an aquifer.

Experts have told Masse, he said, that whey needs to be mixed with animal waste to be properly digested and any company proposing such a project would have to prove it could be done in a safe manner.

"We never got far enough along with any of the digester companies to have this conversation with them in depth or with our board," Masse said. "That issue would have to be discussed at length if any company wished to use animal waste in their process, and our board would have to approve it."

One local farmer has contacted Alpina about obtaining whey to mix with cattle feed, Parkhurst said. The farmer said he checked with Cargill, which provided him with a formula for mixing whey with his feed and now he would like to find out how to get his hands on some Alpina whey.

"That's just one farmer and he's not capable of taking on the whole thing," Parkhurst said. "But if it helps his business and it helps our business at least some, I would be more than happy to participate."

Alpina is actively exploring all options for whey waste, Parkhurst said, looking for the most economically sensible and environmentally sound solution.

"We've even worked a little bit with RIT and GCC," Parkhurst said. "There is money floating around to help research any practical application."

A local operation that may be able to take on all of Alpina's whey waste is Baskin Livestock.

Baskin, as we've reported before, specializes in taking food company waste and converting it into cattle feed.

Bill Baskin is eager to explore a partnership with Alpina to bring whey waste to his plant on Creek Road in Bethany. 

"We work with food producers all over the Northeast to get rid of their waste," Baskin said. "There’s no reason we can't do it right in our own back yard."

With any food production, there is a substantial amount of waste -- batches get mixed wrong, products are spilled or spoiled or unsold product goes bad. Baskin takes all that waste, dries, grinds it and turns it into cattle feed.

Quaker-Muller is already sending some of its product waste to Baskin, but the way the plant will make yogurt -- the Quaker-Muller plant officially opens Monday -- there is no whey waste.

"Our yogurt is consistently high quality because we add milk protein from strained milk to our yogurt to deliver the same delicious texture and taste every time," said Scott Gilmore, spokesman for PepsiCo.

Until recently, Baskin and Parkhurst hadn't spoken, but yesterday, Baskin's director of business development, Peter Klaich, met briefly with Parkhurst and Parkhurst said he's certainly interested in learning more about how Baskin can help with whey waste.

Parkhurst is proud that Alpina buys almost all of its raw ingredients from farmers in Genesee County and WNY. The potential of working with Baskin fits right in with that philosophy, Parkhurst said.

"We're always interested in working with local companies," Parkhurst said.

Saturday, April 20, 2013 at 5:56 pm

Photo: Earth Day clean up in Oakfield

post by Howard B. Owens in Earth Day, environment, Oakfield

Samantha Pangrazio pulls a bag of garbage from under a tree off Albion Road, in Oakfield.

Pangrazio, along with Jacqualine Chamberlain (pictured) and Debbie Martin, were on Albion Road this morning picking up trash and litter as part of a community Earth Day clean up. More than a dozen other volunteers participated.

This is the fourth year for the event, which Pangrazio started her sophomore year in high school.

"As a kid I grew up out in the middle of nowhere and I saw how people always threw garbage around and it really bothered me," Pangrazio said. "My mom would take us out and we would clean up the garbage. I thought it was something other people don't really think about, so I wanted to raise awareness about how gross some people can be."

This year's sponsors were: Genesee County Roofing, Lamb Farms, Loraine's Day Care, Caryville Inn, Alli's Cones & Dogs, Santino's Pizza and Becky's Treasures and Crafts.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013 at 1:34 pm

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

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, environment

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.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012 at 6:00 pm

Fuel storage tanks being removed, but no leakage into the Tonawanda suspected

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, 7-Eleven, business, environment, Tonawanda Creek

Yesterday work crews started removing the fuel pumps and fuel tanks from the Wilson Farms location at 355 W. Main St., Batavia.

While people have told us the tanks needed to be removed because they were leaking fuel into the Tonawanda Creek, information obtained from the DEC indicates that's just not the case.

While there is some localized soil contamination, which the DEC is supervising for remedial clean up, the leak is contained to the property.

The property owner is listed as Sugar Creek Stores. Both Wilson Farms and Sugar Creek were sold to 7-Eleven early last year.

Earlier this year, 7-Eleven announced it was selling two Wilson Farms stores in Batavia. Industry reports at the time indicated 7-Eleven was not interested in locations that sell gas, but 7-Eleven recently rebranded the former Wilson Farms location in Oakfield.

While a source tells us the property owner plans to discontinue gas sales at the West Main Street location in the city, we've not yet been able to confirm that with a company representative.

The property is .35 acres and stretches from the shared property line with Settler's west toward Lambert's Design Jewelers, with a length of green space in between the buildings.

Fuel tank removal is expected to take another week or two.

UPDATE: A spokeswoman for 7-Eleven said the property is on the company's "divestiture list." It will be sold.

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