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Environmental issues monitored in aftermath of Lockport fire

Mike Desmond/WBFO News

Environmental experts at the scene of the tire recycling plant fire in Lockport are looking for air or water pollution problems.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is handling water issues. Vast amounts of water from the State Barge Canal and the city water system are being used to douse the massive fire. An oil and debris sheen has emerged on the canal, according to Lockport Mayor Ann McCaffrey.

Air pollution checks are going on, using real-time meters that are looking for what might be coming from a site with vast amounts of burning crumb rubber plus some asbestos in older buildings. The DEC said Thursday there are thousands of one-ton bags of crumb rubber in the plant, but it was not known whether that is how the fire started.

County Environmental Health Division Director Paul Dicky says no air problems are showing up on the meters.
"It's very similar to a structure fire of any nature where you have all sorts of plastics and synthetics and asphalt roofing burning," said Dickey. "The smoke from a fire can be considered rather noxious. This tire fire being really no different."

Credit Mike Desmond/WBFO News
Smoky air remained present in Lockport more than 24 hours after a fire emerged at a tire recycling plant.

Even so, Dicky says underlying health problems, such as COPD, might be triggered in residents by smoke that may not bother healthy people. Individuals with health problems are encouraged to stay away from the fire scene for the time being.

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.