Closing of Tonawanda landfill moves a step closer to reality

TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WIVB) – After years of bickering, and bureaucratic red tape tying up the removal of radioactive contamination from the Town of Tonawanda Landfill, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has come up with three options for the cleanup.

Local officials and nearby residents seem to favor one plan which could lead to retiring the old dump within two to three years.

Dave Kyzer lives next door to the landfill, and said he has lost three dogs in the most horrible way from strange illnesses. Kyzer also recalls in his younger days, playing in the area of the landfill and seeing piles of old 50-gallon drums labeled as hazardous material.

He described the labels as “radioactive material because it had the bio-hazard placards on it. This goes back to the 1970’s–I’m thinking more like ’72 -’73–and that is when I discovered it.”

Ironically, the Tonawanda Landfill is owned and operated by the Town of Tonawanda, but it sits right on the border with the City of Tonawanda, and it is the city residents that have to live with the contamination.

Dave and his neighbors on Hackett Drive are learning about the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ plans to clean up the radioactive waste dating back to the Manhattan Project in the 1930’s and 40’s, which led to the development of the atomic bomb.

Right now there are three options: capping the landfill and closing it with the hazardous material remaining; a shallow dig—removing all the radioactive waste to a depth of about 5’, and then capping the dump; or a deep dig to remove all of the radioactive waste, which officials believe would be cost prohibitive.

Tonawanda Mayor Rick Davis believes the shallow dig makes the most sense, “The Army Corps would clean up a lot of the contamination, and the town would be able to properly close and cap the landfill, which these residents’ day to day lives would be able to get back to normal.”

The shallow excavation plan involves the Army Corps of Engineers digging into the top 5’ of the landfill, removing the radioactive waste, and shipping it off to another disposal site.

Steve Buechi, team leader for the Army Corps’ Environmental Project Management Team, said the waste material is a low-level radioactive residue, so if it is below 5’ capping it would prevent harm to public health.

“Following that we will backfill those excavations with clean soil, and in the future we will have ongoing site inspections to ensure that soils below that 5′ are not disturbed.”

The Army Corps of Engineers is taking public comment, through December, on their plans to remediate the Tonawanda Landfill and close it.

Buechi said once the comment period is over, and they come up with the money for the remediation project, it should take about a year-and-a-half to get the job done, cap the landfill, and retire it.

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