The Town of Wheatfield, New York, just east of Niagara Falls, is being sued by current and former residents who claim that contaminants from the old Niagara Sanitation landfill impact their adjacent properties.
There are 16 notices of claim that make up the lawsuit and more are expected. Each notice is for $60 million in damages. According to the filing notice, the plaintiffs have 15 months to file a formal lawsuit.
The claim made by the plaintiffs, all current or former residents of Forbes Street in North Tonawanda, claim that their poor health is a result of chemicals migrating from the old Niagara Sanitation Landfill in the Town of Wheatfield. The residents claim that they are experiencing headaches, nausea, respiratory issues and nervous system disorders
The site has been reclassified in recent years by the NYDEC to a Class 2 site on the New York State Registry of Inactive Hazardous Waste Sites. The reclassification of the site by the NYDEC was due to recently characterized elevated surface soil concentrations identified in several locations and the presence of hazardous waste in the subsurface.
In a December 21st 2015 Public Notice, the NYDEC stated “The landfill does not have a Part 360 cap or access restrictions. Both conditions indicate a concern for potential exposures to people who enter the site. This exposure concern has been documented as people are using the landfill as a jogging and play area. Dirt bike trails are evident throughout the site and use of such has resulted in landfill materials to become exposed at the surface. Therefore, the site represents a significant threat to the environment and public health.”
According to a March 2016 Information Update by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC), there is not off-site migration of contaminants. The March 2016 Information Update states “Surface water is confined to the landfill in ponded areas and does not run off the site. No significant off-site contamination is anticipated due to a naturally existing clay layer beneath and around the landfill which limits the migration of contaminants from the landfill.”
The old Niagara Sanitation Landfill is a former municipal and industrial landfill that accepted waste from multiple sites, including Niagara Falls Air Force Base, Bell Aerospace, Carborundum, Frontier Chemical, Graphite Specialties, Continental Can, and Grief Brothers. Contaminants at the landfill site include metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyls, pesticides, caustics, and plating tank sludge.
The old Niagara Sanitation Landfill operated from the 1950’s to 1968. The former owner of the site, Niagara Sanitation, accepted chemical and industrial waste including material from the infamous Love Canal which is only 10 km (6 miles) west.
Love Canal is characterized on the US EPA website as one of the most appalling environmental tragedies in American history. An abandoned canal was used as a hazardous waste disposal site starting in the 1920’s until the early 1950’s by the Hooker Chemical Company. In 1978 the dump literally exploded.
The Love Canal waste that had been deposited in the old Niagara Sanitation Landfill was removed in 2014 and 2015. It was to be transported to the hazardous waste incinerator in Sarnia, Ontario for destruction but political outcry in Canada resulted in it being transported by rail to the hazardous waste incinerator in Kimball, Nebraska.
According to a news article in the Buffalo News, the residents along Forbes Street that are suing the Town of Wheatfield paid for their own private environmental investigation and found that contamination from the landfill had migrated onto their properties.
The Town of Wheatfield is currently in the process of fencing off the 20.8-acres landfill site and the NYDEC is in the process of continuing its investigation on the extent of contamination at the landfill and preparing a clean-up plan for the site to be completed in 2019.