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One Lockport family remains in cleanup area, as EPA details plans

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Lockport area residents were briefed Wednesday night about the status of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency plan to clean up about one mile of Eighteen Mile Creek. It's the latest stage in cleaning up a waterway contaminated by industry and agriculture over two centuries.

Liz Holland's home is in the midst of the EPA cleanup, but not part of it.

"Ironically, the industrial picture they had in their presentation was a picture of my house, sitting right in the middle of all that stuff," Holland said. "I'm not from the area. I grew up in Lancaster, so I had no idea about Lockport."

Holland has a two-year-old daughter whom she doesn't allow to play in the front yard of her house.

"She wants to be outside. I never let her in the front yard," she said.

"Upson is immediately to my right. The creek they're going to excavate is immediately to the front. The old paper mill used to be there. I can see the stacks from my house," she said. "I just didn't know any better when I bought the house. You don't really think about that stuff when you're buying your first house."

Holland said she the previous owner of the house used to work at the paper mill and has a young child of his own. She doesn't want to stall the cleanup, "but they can't leave us there. It's appalling that they left it (the house) there."

"The excuse they always gave was 'Well, your yard doesn't flood'. So I called (Senator Charles) Schumer and they said, 'Yeah, we probably should look into the financial ruin we leave everybody else in,' but I'll be long dead before Congress does anything about that," Holland said.

EPA officials say it may be up to three years before the $23 million preferred alternative for cleanup is ready to go out to bid.

"This is one of the quickest projects that I've seen. And, relatively speaking, things are happening fast," said Remedial Project Manager Jaclyn Kondrk.

The plan is to work downstream toward Lake Ontario cleaning up the creek. The  section between the State Barge Canal and Harwood Street features some of the worst industrial contamination in the city leaking into the land and water.

"The contamination is arsenic and lead from the farmers, as I've said. And, the second thing is the wastewater treatment plant for the Village of Gasport," said former Royalton Supervisor Butch Ramming.

"A lot of residue went down and that filled the stream. The stream used to be deep but it's all shallow now. It's all filled in with that."

The plan calls for contaminated land and creek bottom to be hauled away to a licensed dump site, though that location has yet to be determined.

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.