- At least 60 residents have filed a lawsuit against the town of Wheatfield, NY and seven companies involved in dumping hazardous waste at the closed Niagara Sanitation Landfill. More than 160 notices of claim have been filed since January and more lawsuits are expected, as reported by Spectrum News and WIVB.
- The initial complaint alleges that the parties involved didn't do enough to remediate effects of chemicals in waste brought from the former Love Canal landfill. Contaminants of concern include pesticides, volatile organic compounds and heavy metals. The plaintiffs are seeking monetary damages for personal injury and property damage, as well as the establishment of a fund for ongoing medical monitoring.
- In a separate development, the state's Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) recently announced that it will be conducting an investigation to determine whether contaminants have moved from the site into residential areas. Funds from the state's Superfund program will be used to install monitoring wells and other testing devices to gather information for a remedial action plan.
This is all stems from about 1,600 cubic yards of material brought from the former Love Canal site in 1968 to make room for the construction of a highway. According to DEC, investigations began in 1983 and continued for years until the material was finally removed in 2014. The state has since reclassified the landfill as a Superfund site to expedite funding since the involved companies haven't been willing to pay for any of the remediation costs, but can be made to do so via legal action.
The town of Wheatfield has recognized residents' health concerns, and recently lined up money to put a temporary fence around the site to prevent further exposure, but is far from capable of paying damages of this magnitude. One of the companies named in this new suit, Saint-Gobain, has resisted financial responsibility in a number of other contamination cases in the area and this process can be expected to take time.
Two other closed landfills were classified as Superfund sites by the state last year and similar sites exist in states throughout the country. As some state environmental agencies contend with shrinking budgets it can be challenging to enforce new violations or help remediate the effects of old ones. Proposed federal plans call for reducing the Environmental Protection Agency's budget and shifting more authority to these state agencies.