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Second phase of Eighteen Mile Creek cleanup beginning, despite uncertainty

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is planning to go ahead with cleaning up Eighteen Mile Creek in Lockport, but it will not be soon. It also is not clear the money to pay for the cleanup will be there.

The agency has been working on the pollution problem in and along the creek for years. It has already demolished the old Flintkote plant and purchased and demolished five homes on Water Street across the creek from Flintkote, after it was determined creek flooding washed the backyards of those homes with lead, arsenic, chromium and PCBs. Those are all in the creek sediment, with the entire creek to Lake Ontario considered a Superfund site.

"The first phase of the cleanup, which involved the demolition of the Flintkote building in Lockport and the relocation, permanently, of five families and the demolition of those five homes cost between $3 and $4 million," says EPA Public Affairs Officer Michael Basile. "The second phase is a $23 million cleanup."

Basile says it is likely to be late next year before the $23 million project starts.

"When we begin, we'll be looking at the properties at Upson Park, White Transportation, the former Flintkote building property and we'll be looking to excavate contaminated sediments from them, as well as sediments from part of Eighteen Mile Creek," he says.

The project also includes tearing out two old dams in the creek. Basile says a major goal is to dredge the creek so the contaminated sediment on the bottom is removed, along with bordering lands, mostly once industrial.

"Contaminated sediment is just like contaminated soil," he says. "It just kind of settles in the sediment and we will definitely see to it if we're going to excavate a piece of the property like your Upson Park, we definitely don't want to re-contaminate that portion of the creek and that's why we will remove the contaminated sediment."

What will be done about the other 13 miles of the creek has not been decided yet. Basile says the EPA is going ahead with planning for the project, although the Trump Administration is known to be planning major cuts in the agency and its spending. All cleanup money will be federal funds.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.