CWM Chemical Services, Towns of Porter and Lewiston
The siting of any centralized hazardous waste management facility inevitably imposes potential risks and costs to a single host area targeted for the storage or disposal of hazardous byproducts of industrial processes benefiting a larger region or even an entire society. --S. H. Murdock et al., Hazardous Wastes in Rural America (1999)
In the towns of Porter and Lewiston (Niagara Co.), CWM Chemical Services (CWM) (a subsidiary of Waste Management, Inc.) proposes to construct a new expansion landfill and extend hazardous waste landfilling for another 20 years or so. State legislation passed overwhelmingly in 2006 by both Senate and Assembly would require CWM to demonstrate it does not discharge to waters that drain to the Greak Lakes. However, Governor Pataki vetoed the bill. Essentially the same bill is back in 2007, but Sen. Maziarz has been reluctant to introduce it in the Senate, despite strong local support for doing so. See Niagara Gazette editorial of May 7.
CWM operates the northeast's only hazardous waste landfill, called "RMU-1" (for "residual waste unit #1"). CWM is the largest generator of hazardous waste in Niagara and Erie counties combined, because it transfers substantial volumes of waste it receives to other facilities for treatment or management.
In 2005 DEC issued a renewal permit to CWM. The permit and DEC's responses to public comments on the permit are posted on DEC's website. In 1999 the Town settled a longstanding dispute with the the landfill over a proposed waste incinerator. In return for abandoning the incinerator proposal, Porter accepted a landfill.expansion. Since then, Residents for Responsible Government has focused on CMW's efforts to expand, and whether dredged PCB-contaminated soil from the Hudson River (a result of General electric dumping) will be trucked to the landfill soon, and whether the site qualifies for permits required to add a new hazardous waste landfill.
CWM owns over 700 acres of formerly federal land used as a TNT plant during World War II, used after the war to dump and incinerate radioctive and chemical waste from other federal facilities. In 1972 the state Department of Health imposed an order on the land requiring prior DOH approval for any soil excavation, because the location of radiological contaminants has beeen inadequately recorded and could be released in excavation dust. DEC has incorporated many of DOH's concerns into CWM's permit as of 2005, requiring the company to undertake a series of investigations to determine the location of radiological hot spots.
CWM also has a history of leaking PCBs from its stormwater. The company's water discharge permit allows no PCBs to leave the site, as the drainage system flows to Four Mile Creek and Lake Ontario. The United States and Canada are parties to an agreement to achieve zero discharge of PCBs and other bioaccumulative chemicals of concern to the Great Lakes System. DEC is requiring CWM to undertake a series of investigations of its watershed to determine the source of leaking PCBs.
Scoping the RMU-2 proposal
In 2005 the State Legislature amended New York's environmental law to require DEC to complete and approve a state-wide siting plan, which must address the equity of siting the next hazardous waste landfill in Porter and Lewiston, prior to acting on any application for a new landfill. CWM submitted a draft application for a new landfill on the Porter-Lewiston site in 2003, called "RMU-2," but DEC has not yet acted on it. Before DEC can adopt a state siting plan, it must offer the plan to the public for comments.
The agency faces an unsympathetic community if it concludes the Lewiston-Porter area is the best place for new hazardous waste disposal space. Most of the waste that goes to CWM comes from outside New York State. More importantly, Lewiston-Porter has hosted the state's only commercial hazardous waste dump for two generations, far from most of the New York generators of waste who use it--they are much closer to Albany and New York City than the Niagara Frontier. Can DEC justify putting more risk on the community that hosts Love Canal and the radiologically and chemically contaminated Lake Ontario Ordinance Works?
DEC is nevertheless moving forward on the RMU-2 application. The agency held a public scoping meeting July 26, 2006 at the Lew-Port high school for the purpose of determining the scope of issues CWM should address in a complete application for RMU-2. We've posted below the scoping comments submitted by Niagara County, which opposes RMU-2.
2001 FCC Consent Decree (WMI made a "voluntary contribution" of $75,000 to settle an enforcement action charging it had made over 100 unauthorized transfers of licences in connection with the USA Waste merger)