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Commentary: Thank You Joe Gardella

By Mary Travers Murphy

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wbfo/local-wbfo-739858.mp3

Orchard Park, NY – Dangerous chemicals buried beneath two expensive new homes?

That's what a pair of Barrington Heights neighbors were worried about when workers digging a pool happened upon an old farm dump.

The nervous residents turned to the Town for help claiming their pleas to the builder to move them out where going no where.

The unhappy homeowners took to the podium during one of my very first town board meetings demanding to know what I was going to do about it.

They wanted action and answers.

Did the old farm dump contain hazardous materials? Who could interpret for them the results of the envirornmental testing that had been completed at the site? Was their health in jeopardy? Who would be responsible for cleaning it up? And why had this mess dragged on as long as it had?

I needed an expert.

And I needed someone with air tight credentials whom the residents, builder, town officials and lawyers could trust.

I thought back to my days as an investigative reporter and knew exactly the expert to call: Dr. Joseph Gardella, Professor of Chemistry at the University at Buffalo and Faculty Fellow, UB Institute for Local Governance and Regional Growth.

Dr. Gardella did not disappoint.

He graciously donated his brainpower and time and within months the homeowners were moved out, the site was cleaned up to standards that exceed federal levels and everybody was happy.

Dr. Gardella saved the day.

And he remains in the picture.

As you hear this Dr. Gardella is assisting Town Building Inspector Andy Geist and me in drafting an ordinance addressing clean up of old farm dumps.

It will be the first of its kind in New York State and we want to get it right knowing other municipalities will be watching and perhaps adopting.

Meantime, thanks again to Dr. Gardella, all of us who live in OP will be breathing a little easier.

Literally.

I credit him with planting the seed that culminated a few weeks back in a major EPA grant awarded to Fisher Bus which services the OP Central School District.

Fisher Bus will parlay a good chunk of the $174,000 award into retrofitting school buses with state of the art equipment that curbs harmful tailpipe emissions.

So on behalf of the entire Town of Orchard Park, thank you Dr. Gardella and thank you University at Buffalo for not blinking when towns turn to your talent in times of trouble.

Listener-Commentator Mary Travers Murphy is Orchard Park Town Supervisor.

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