The Start of it All
My unexpected journey down a rabbit hole started with a discussion during Easter dinner with friends about concerns over the new FedEx
office/warehouse space that one of our friends will be moving into in the next couple of weeks. For those not in the western NY area, FedEx is
currently finishing a building project in a much lauded new business park called Riverview Solar Technology Park, in Tonawanda, NY. If you are
interested in a quick overview of what this is, here is the land developer’s website: Riverview Solar
Now, on the surface this looks fantastic, and it is for a couple of reasons. First, FedEx will combine the resources and workforce of 2 separate
office locations along with warehouse space reducing their footprint. Secondly, they plan to use solar energy for a lot of their energy needs. But I
needed to take a deeper look into the troubled past of this whole area to fully understand her concern.
During the course of conversation, that was moving at lightning speed, 4 names kept repeating. They were Ashland I, Ashland II, Seaway Landfill and
Rattlesnake Creek, as these are all located near the Riverview Solar Technology Park, next door actually. These names I used as my “starting
point” in a Google search.
The Research and Findings:
I need to explain one thing before we get started down this rabbit hole in earnest. So far, I have not been able to find specific information on any
parcel(s) of land that are now referred to as “Riverview Solar Technology Park” or the “FedEx Campus” within the Park. Further investigation
using public land sale records is needed as well as a trip to the Tonawanda public library where there is a repository of information not found
online. The information from here on out will pertain only to the surrounding parcels of land on River Road in Tonawanda, NY that have a direct link
to the “Solar Technology Park”.
I found a rather good brief summary of the use of the above parcels of land on the Army Corps of Engineers website. (Ashland, Seaway, Rattlesnake
Creek) FUSRAP Fact Sheet, Ashland II Site - Dec.
. (FUSRAP referes to sites that received Manhattan Project waste)
While this particular link does not address the Solar Technology Park land specifically, it at least was able to give me a general idea as to the
cause for concern. This page also gives a good view of the actual land area where the Solar Technology Park is located. Looking at the picture on
the link above, the Solar Park is located along the left border of the Ashland II site. The FedEx complex would be located along the upper left hand
corner of the Ashland II site.
The basic information on the link above is that the entire area was contaminated with radioactive waste from the Manhattan Project. Not only were
these sites (along with many others in this area I have found) contaminated with Manhattan Project tailings, but after that they were further
contaminated with toxic chemicals dumped/stored there.
My next stop was the NYSDEC (New York State Dept. of Environmental Conservation) website. Like any Govt. agency website this proved to be a bloated
barely functional tool but eventually I found a report generator that led me to the information I needed.
Using this form
I was able to generate reports on every contaminated
parcel of land along the River Road corridor currently listed on the DEC website. Because of the way the website is setup, I cannot link to each
specific report. It will only give a link that redirects to the main report page. However, if you use the report generator link above and populate
the fields with the following information you can see for yourself what I am talking about. (You don’t need to populate any of the other fields,
just the one’s listed below)
Street: River Road
If you like you can take a look at them. However, I can save you the trouble. Basically, as far as the Ashland sites and Rattlesnake Creek, all the
DEC will tell you is: “This site was once a very bad place but is no longer. We have evidence of fairies, unicorns and trace elements of rainbow
dust. All is well”.
As for what happened next at the Ashland sites, well, the
Army Corps of Engineers - Final Ashland
was issued in 2006. By the looks of the Closeout Report, it’s fine for usage to a limited degree but more investigation on
my part is needed to see the actual proposed future use of the site. What I can tell you in walking the property, is that Ashland II is capped,
seeded and has vents protruding from the top layer with water testing wells in plain sight.
What concerns me about the above close out report is that while it addresses the radioactive waste, it does not really address the toxic chemical
contamination or cleanup thereof. I believe I will be able to prove further on that there was toxic chemical contamination at the Ashland sites when
we explore the 4630 River Road site.
For all intents and purpose it may be fine now, but I am still skeptical where large amounts of money are at stake for development generating millions
(maybe billions) of dollars in the end for an area with a struggling economy.
Seaway Landfill is another matter entirely however. In 2009 the Army Corps of Engineers issued an ROD (Record of Decision) stating that they would
remove a small amount of the radioactive material from Seaway that they felt was in danger of leaking from its present containment field at some point
in the future. The Tonawanda town leaders hotly contested this demanding ALL materials be removed, no matter the cost difference in the 2 solutions.
In an article entitled
Nuclear Material to Remain
at Seaway Landfill
it outlines briefly this exchange in a public tit for tat. But the town has it right as does the NYDEC and for once the
I found the most current Army Corps of Engineers
Landfill Fact Sheet
dated March of 2014. Much of what is contained in it seems to confirm this butting of heads over what should be done at
Seaway as it mentions the Feds, NYDEC and the town of Tonawanda’s opposition to their plan. However, the most astounding thing to me is that while
all parties have known for decades that this is a dangerous site in need of quick action, none has really yet been taken. The Seaway Fact Sheet
mentions that there are still uncapped FUSRAP (radioactive Manhattan Project waste) present. It also states in the “Importance” section that
there are “elevated levels of radionuclides present that exceed Federal environmental requirement criteria”! Right after that in the
“Consequences” section it states that there is “potential for long-term, adverse human health effects”.
So, when do they think that they might just get around to actually doing something about it? Well, they first have to do another ‘study’ and if
funding continues at the current pace they should be able to get around to it in 4-5 years. Unbelievable.
My skepticism and anger deepens when you take a look at some of the other active cleanup sites that surround the Solar Technology Park property.
Of special interest are the following reports that should show on your list (if you ran one) except Site #915239 which for some reason no longer shows
on my list, thank goodness I printed it while doing my initial research. Remember, I cannot link directly to each report, so unless otherwise stated
the referenced reports below were generated using the form linked at the beginning of this section.
Site Code: C915258 – 4630 River Road
- This site is connected to the Ashland sites because it received run off from those sites in the form of retention ponds. (Reference back to the
Ashland Closeout Report linked earlier)
- Also, if you read the Site Description portion you will find that some of the contaminated soils excavated from this site were taken BACK to the
Ashland sites for “bioremediation”. Remember, the Ashland sites are now deemed “safe”. Nothing to see here.. let’s move along.
- Carries a DEC Site Classification Code
of A, which means “we know there are big nasty things
here and we are working on it”.
- Hazardous materials found at the site include: benz(a)anthracene, benzo(a)pyrene, benzo(k)fluoranthene, chrysene, copper, eythylbenzene,
indeno(1,2,3-cd)pyrene, lead, toluene, xylene(mixed), zinc.
- Proposed use of the site: construction of 64 apartments with underground parking and marina facilities. WOW…
- I am still working on getting the Site Assessments on this parcel in order to get more information. That is proving a bit difficult. Wonder
Site Code: E915225 & 915225 – Riverview Industrial Ctr. – 5335 River Road
- This parcel butts directly up against the back portion of the Solar Technology Park property.
- Carries a DEC Classification code of: N which basically means “we’ve done all we can, or care to do, and we won’t be responsible should you
grow an extra appendage somewhere or become your own night light”.
- The report does not give specific chemicals pulled out of the site other than petroleum based contaminates. However, it does share a border with
the parcel below where some pretty bad contaminates have been found. What is the likelihood of some of those leaching onto this property?
- Site Code 915225 states there is a significant health risk at this property (I suspect this one is the first report done) and Site Code C915225
states it is OK (most likely revised after some work was done there), but states that there is still residual contamination in the soil.
- **NOTE: This parcel is not currently associated with the Riverview Solar Technology Park, but it is my impression that once given the ‘all
clear’ this parcel will eventually be annexed into Solar Park complex at some point. I say this because on page 8 of the
Army Corps of Engineers - Final Ashland
it states that
Several properties around Rattlesnake Creek have been purchased by ‘5201 River Road LLC’ to build
‘Riverview Industrial Center.’ Work began in September of 2005, and a road and culverts (for Rattlesnake Creek) have been installed.
River Road LLC is affiliated with TM Montante, the developer of Riverview Solar Technology Park, as confirmed in this
Site Code: 915239 – 5565 River Road Site – 5565 River Road
- This site butts right up against the 5335 River Road parcel above.
- Carries a DEC Classification Code of 02 which basically states that disposal of hazardous waste materials has been confirmed, it represents a
significant public health/environmental risk and/or hazardous waste disposal has not been confirmed, but the site has been listed on the Federal
National Priorities List (NPL). (How a site can be listed on the EPA’s NPL list without confirmation of hazardous materials is beyond me)
- Hazardous materials found at this location include: 1,2,4 Trimethylbenzene, arsenic, barium, benz(a)anthracene, benzo(a)pyrene,
benzo(b)fluoranthene, , cadmium, chromium, copper, eythelbenzene, lead, methylene chloride, nickel, PCBs, toluene, tricholoroethene (TCE), xylene
- The site health assessment states:
The site is not fenced and persons who enter the site could contact contaminants in the soil by walking on
the soil, digging into the soil, or inhaling dust from ATV trespassers. People may come in contact with contaminants present in the shallow creek
sediments while entering or exiting the creek if trespassing on the site. Information on groundwater contamination is not available at this time.
- For further reading enjoyment is the DEC Preliminary Site Assessment - 2012 -
5565 River Road
. Page 11 states that to the west is the Solar Technology Park. It actually states “further west” which implies it’s not
really close at all…. but it is.
Taking all of this info into consideration, how can a site (Riverview Solar Tech Park) be deemed ‘safe’ when the others around it are so
contaminated? How can a “safe” site (Ashland II) that contaminated another (4630 River Rd) with toxic run off that was then transported BACK to
the original parcel of land (Ashland II) now be deemed safe? And what of air contamination when the other sites surrounding the Solar Park start
their “clean up” programs (or even currently)? As for the radioactive contamination at Seaway in particular, well I just can’t go there right
now. I have no words that can aptly describe my anger and frustration.
For me, it makes no logical sense to say one site is “safe” while the others surrounding it are not and have the potential of directly impacting
the Solar Park site workers currently or when their cleanup starts. It is not like these contaminates respect property boundaries. Am I making a
mountain out of a mole hill or are the fears of our friend, and now I, rooted in a real cause for concern?
This was an eye opener. While I volunteered to jump into the rabbit hole, it’s clear that I have in no way, shape or form found the bottom. I’m
not sure I even want to, but I will continue on to see where this eventually leads me because it keeps drawing me in like some sick morbid
What IS clear however, is that while environmental cleanup is of real concern to everyday citizens it is merely a buzz word to our governments on all
levels (local, state, federal) who value economic growth over human protection. I understand fully that the Buffalo, NY area is economically
depressed and in need to a good shot in the arm to drive growth. But at what cost? In the seemingly haste of these sites to be cleaned up to allow
business/industrial/economic growth don’t they run the risk of another Love Canal to some degree in the future? Are they sure this time they’ve
got it right?
I challenge anyone in NY State to just run one simple report from the DEC website using
The Environmental Remedial Database Search
to find out what is going on
near you. I did, and what I found is a superfund site so bad they are currently in the process of buying out resident’s homes along portions of 18
Mile Creek, relocating them and are warning any and all in the area to not even go in the water. This area is a block from my home. I can see a
portion of it from my front yard, but this issue could be a thread all of its own (if any are interested, I am starting to do a thread on this site
alone). To say the least, I am absolutely dumbfounded.
If you are not a NY state resident and are interested in knowing if there is a toxic site near you then try this
by state listing of Environmental Agencies on EPA.gov
Just be forewarned that you may not be as prepared as you think you are to learn what is in your area…. I wasn’t.