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EPA Superfund Removes Huge Drum Stockpile From Chemical Warehouse On Hertel Avenue In Buffalo

Release Date: 12/11/1997
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(#97170) BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Under the supervision of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) more than 2,800 out of 20,000 drums of chemicals from the Morgan Materials, Inc. property at 373 Hertel Avenue here have already been shipped out-of-state for safe disposal since early November. This is part of an EPA Superfund removal action to eliminate the potential threat to the community posed by haphazardly stored chemicals. U.S. Representative John J. LaFalce reviewed the cleanup operations and toured the site today with EPA, state and local officials.

At least 17,000 more drums still remain stockpiled in the one-story chemical distribution warehouse at the site, based on an inventory completed last week. These materials will be trucked off-site for appropriate disposal over the next eight months. The most acutely hazardous chemicals will be sent out first. Shipment of the drums off-site does not pose a threat to the public and should not cause any inconvenience to the community.

Mr. Richard Caspe, Director of EPA's regional Superfund Program, briefed the officials at the site. "The situation in the building when we arrived could be best described in one-word "gridlock," Caspe explained. "The drums were crammed into every available space, floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall."

Initial efforts focused on creating space to allow the chemicals to be characterized and the most immediate problems identified. The huge volume of material in the building will be steadily reduced to alleviate the potential risk of a chemical incident at the site. In addition, work continues to further stabilize the situation by separating incompatible chemicals and over-packing corroded drums.

"Our success so far in defusing the situation is the result of a team effort," Caspe added. "EPA, cooperating companies, private contractors, and county and local agencies, such as the emergency management office and fire department, are closely coordinating all cleanup and related activities. The team also includes the residents of the area, who have demonstrated a high degree of patience and cooperation since the action started." EPA took control of the property in September at the request of New York State after the company exceeded the safe storage capacity of the building and could no longer conduct business. EPA immediately ordered the owner to provide 24-hour security and other measures to restrict unauthorized site access. EPA is supervising the work of private contractors paid by a partnership of cooperating companies who are voluntarily assuming the cleanup costs for drums that came from their facilities. Those drums that will not be removed under the terms of the agreement with the cooperating companies will be addressed using Superfund money. These drums are called "orphans" because their owners have not yet been identified.

During the inventory, a variety of different waste products have been discovered including some toxic, flammable and low-level radioactive materials. Arrangements for the off-site disposal of the most toxic and flammable materials in the warehouse should be completed by the middle of next month. The low-level radioactive materials have been isolated in the warehouse. While these drums do not present a threat to the public at the present time; as an added precaution, they will be placed in specially designed storage containers until off-site disposal can be completed.


For more information contact:
Mike Basile, Press Office
EPA Region 2 Niagara Field Office
345 third Street
Niagara Falls, NY 14303
Voice: 716-285-8842 FAX: 716-285-8788 E-Mail: basile.michael@epamail.epa.gov