Neighbors want more tests as DEC says no off-site contamination from old landfill

WHEATFIELD, N.Y. (WIVB)- People living near an old Wheatfield landfill argue chemicals are seeping off of it and making them sick. New test results dispute those claims.

The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation announced Monday it finished testing more than 200 samples from on and around the former Niagara Sanitation Landfill.

“We have determined that there is no off-site migration of contaminants that would lead to any exposure issues off site,” said Chad Staniszewski, the DEC regional remediation engineer.

The landfill was active in the 50’s and 60’s and contained industrial waste, most notably from Love Canal. Occidental Chemical Corporation removed the Love Canal waste in 2014. The DEC said that year that there was no off site contamination.

In Jan. 2017, more than 160 notices of claim were filed against the Town of Wheatfield and several companies that disposed of waste at the landfill. Neighbors claim they failed to prevent them from being exposed to harmful chemicals, which made them sick.

“It’s scary to have to live in this house and know what is floating around in our air and go to sleep and wake up the next morning and it’s still here,” said Nancy Maines, a resident.

She and her husband Bill live in a Forbes Terrace home, which backs up to the landfill.

A company, hired by their lawyers, found high levels of cancer causing dioxins in their house, including under the basement.

“My immune system is shot, my husband had a heart attack and all of these are all linked to these chemicals that are in our house,” said Maines.

In March 2017, the DEC started taking soil and water samples from around the surface of the landfill, to see if more remediation was needed. Gov. Cuomo called for the testing to expand in April.

“Our investigation focused on whether or not those contaminants that we knew exist at the site, whether they were creating any issues off site,” said Staniszewski.

The DEC collected 63 groundwater samples from more than 40 monitoring wells installed in, and around, waste buried in the landfill.

He said they did not collect groundwater samples from people’s homes because the samples from the landfill’s perimeter did not show concerning levels of chemicals. He told News 4 it was therefore unlikely other areas would have high levels.

“There was low level contamination in the groundwater typical of any urban area but that was not something that would appreciably impact anything inside someone’s home,” said Staniszewski. “The natural geography of the area contains a lot of clay and clay doesn’t really allow water to move through it therefore we wouldn’t expect a lot of migration via ground water.”

The DEC said its tests also showed no significant contaminants in the surface water and sediment samples taken on, and next to, the landfill.

Thirty-nine surface soil samples were collected on the site and 26 surface soil samples were collected off-site, including 22 from neighbors’ properties.

“Surface soil samples collected off site also showed no indication there was any contamination from the landfill,” said Staniszewski.

The tests did show the waste buried in the landfill, and some of the subsurface soil around it, did contain concerning levels of metals and PAHs. According to the DEC, most of those areas are located in the middle of the landfill. Staniszewski told News 4 they do not believe there’s any risk of those contaminants moving off site.

The DEC plans to remediate those contaminates and hope to have a plan to clean it up by Spring 2019.

They will first compile the new data into a report to present to the public this spring. Neighbors will be able to ask questions about the study.

“I hope people will understand that we did complete a comprehensive investigation,” said Staniszewski. “We did look at every possible exposure pathway and the data indicates there are no offsite exposure issues relative to the waste that is in the landfill.”

We asked the DEC what explains the prevalent illnesses in the neighborhood, they suggested we talk to the NYS Department of Health.

The Maines want more tests to be done.

“We would like our houses to be tested and if they are polluted, which we know they’re polluted, we want to be out of here,” said Nancy Maines. “We want the government to step up to the plate and take care of the situation.”

They told News 4 they’ve asked the DEC to come into their home to check for dangerous chemicals but were turned down.

The Maines think the state should buy out residents so they can move to a safer neighborhood.

“You can’t just get up and walk away from your house,” said Bill Maines. “Help us get out of here, that’s what we want.”

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