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Federal Superfund Cleanup in Buffalo Completed; Drum Removal at Chemical Warehouse on Hertel Avenue EPA's Biggest Ever in NY/NJ

Release Date: 02/26/1999
Contact Information: Mike Basile (716) 285-8842 / basile.michael@epa.gov

(#99032) BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Residents along Hertel Avenue will not have to worry about their notorious neighbor, Morgan Materials, Inc., now that the last truck carrying drums of hazardous wastes left the property on Wednesday. The removal of the waste to a licensed disposal facility is the last chapter in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Superfund emergency cleanup that began at the former chemical distribution warehouse in September 1997. U.S. Representative John J. LaFalce joined officials from EPA, New York State, the city of Buffalo, and the private companies that played major roles in the successful cleanup -- the biggest drum removal ever handled in New York or New Jersey by EPA's regional emergency response team.

The $6 million project included the safe removal and proper disposal of nearly 21,000 drums of chemicals. Cooperating private parties volunteered to do the work under EPA supervision and removed more than half the drums from the site.

Mr. Richard Caspe, Director of EPA's regional Superfund Program, briefed officials during a post- cleanup inspection of the site. "Our success in defusing the situation is the result of a team effort," said Caspe. "Cooperating companies and their contractors, under EPA's watchful eye, did more than half the work and were in the building during one of the most critical and dangerous phases of the operation -- when it was so crammed with drums -- from wall to wall, floor to ceiling -- that there was little aisle space to maneuver. County and local agencies, such as the emergency management office and fire department, gave us timely support; sometimes before we even asked for it."

"Most important was the role played by those closest to the danger," Caspe added. "Nearby residents were asked to stay indoors on at least two occasions when we were handling potentially explosive materials. We are grateful to all of them for their patience and faith in our ability to get the job done and avert a catastrophe."

During the emergency response, EPA discovered another facility at Great Arrow Plaza in Buffalo where Morgan Materials, Inc. had improperly stored more than 3,000 additional chemical drums. EPA ordered Morgan and two other companies – Monsanto and Buffalo Merchandise Distribution Center, Inc. -- to remove these drum to licensed disposal facilities. EPA is supervising contractors hired by Solutia Inc. -- a division of Monsanto -- and Buffalo Merchandise to do the work. EPA anticipates that the drum removal will be completed in April 1999.

Past EPA Actions EPA inspected the property on Hertel Avenue in March 1997 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.

Those drums on the property which could be identified as attributable to certain companies were removed under EPA supervision by private contractors paid by a cooperating partnership of those companies. Other drums for which clear identification could not be made (called "orphan" drums) were removed and disposed of by EPA using Superfund monies.

EPA directed initial efforts to focus on creating space to allow the chemicals to be characterized and the most immediate problems identified. The huge volume of material in the building was steadily reduced to alleviate the potential risk of a chemical incident at the site as work continued to further stabilize the situation by separating incompatible chemicals and over-packing corroded drums.

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