Agreement Speeds Cleanup Of Buffalo Toxic Site

Attorney General Spitzer and Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Erin M. Crotty today announced a settlement that will require the cleanup of a toxic waste site in the city of Buffalo.

"It is imperative that polluters pay to clean up contaminated sites," Spitzer said. "The public has a right to a clean and safe environment. The Superfund law has been essential in ensuring that toxic sites do not pose a danger to public health or our natural resources."

DEC Commissioner Crotty said: "Under the State Superfund program, we have cleaned up hundreds of contaminated sites across New York State by holding polluters responsible for the contamination they caused. This settlement ensures that the parties responsible for the contamination are held accountable and the public and environment are protected."

The Bern/Universal Metals site on the east side of Buffalo was used as a scrap metal processing center for almost 50 years until it was closed in the late1980s. Soil at the five-acre site is heavily contaminated with lead, battery acid and other toxic substances.

The state began its involvement in the case in the late 1980s. In 1992, the Environmental Protection Agency excavated some contaminated soil, removed barrels, provided soil cover on part of the property and put up fencing. Because the owners of the site itself were deceased, the state then initiated a proceeding against companies identified as contributing to pollution at the site. Six entities that sent toxic material to the site have agreed to conduct cleanup activities at the site which are estimated to cost $1.86 million for the cleanup. The entities include: Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, Niagara Frontier Transit Metro System, Inc., Honeywell International Inc., National Fuel Gas Distribution Corp., General Motors Corporation, and New York State Electric and Gas Corporation. Conrail owned a portion of the site and has agreed to pay $85,000. The City of Buffalo, which also sent waste to the site will maintain the site cap and maintain the fence and do groundwater monitoring for the next several decades.

The settlement agreement was filed today with United States District Judge John T. Curtin. Under the agreement, almost $2 million will now be spent to remove more contaminated soil, cap the site, and finish all remediation work. The work is expected to begin this summer and be completed by the end of the year. Once the site is cleaned up, it will be available for future development.

Assistant Attorney General David A. Munro handled the case for the Attorney General's Office and Maura C. Desmond, Senior Attorney in the Division of Environmental Enforcement is handling the case for the DEC.