Get ready for some cleanup on the lakefront in the city of Dunkirk.
The property owned by the Dunkirk Local Development Corporation at 18 Lake Shore Drive W. is in the sights of the state's Department of Environmental Conservation. The site is currently enrolled in the brownfield program with the former preferred developers, according to city Development Director Steve Neratko.
"We have come to the point now where DEC is saying something has to happen to this site. It needs to be cleaned up, it's going to be causing problems," Neratko told a recent meeting of the city's DLDC board of directors. "Right now they don't believe anything is leaking into the lake but they want to take action immediately."
OBSERVER Photo by Gib Snyder
This site at 18 Lake Shore Drive W. in the city of Dunkirk will be the focus of a cleanup effort shortly, according to city officials. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is expected to begin work on the project as soon as possible.
The city has two options; either continue with the brownfields program and have the city clean the site or use the state's New York Environmental Protection and Spill Compensation Fund or the Leaking Underground Storage Tank Fund. Neratko said the 'Spills' route had a significantly smaller cost.
Krog Corp. was named the preferred developer of the former Bertges property in December 2010 but dropped the project in July of this year. Neratko said the city has been given extra time since Krog withdrew from the proposed project.
"My recommendation is to have DEC do the New York Spills program. They would clean it up, they would pay the bills," Neratko explained. "If they decided to come back and ask for a reimbursement then we'll deal with it at that time."
Neratko said DEC Region 9 officials have said they were not looking for reimbursement at this point.
"They aren't expecting it," he continued. "It will really depend on when they get in there and how expansive it is. At that time they will take into consideration past owners and past uses and they will prorate that."
Neratko said Krog sent a bill for what they had done before pulling out but it was lacking documentation and he is waiting for documentation before proceeding.
"We really don't have to tell them to go ahead with the New York Spills program ... they said one of their priority projects is looking at projects that are affecting the Great Lakes," Neratko explained.
While Neratko said Hurricane Sandy put the DEC behind its original schedule, Mayor Anthony J. Dolce told the board to expect work to start shortly.
City Attorney Ron Szot said there was potential liability either way the cleanup is done, citing joint, several and strict considerations of liability.
"Which means everybody in the food chain is equally responsible regardless of their contributory negligence, or lack of negligence," he explained.
Szot added the city recently paid $180,000 for the spill uncovered during the renovation of Fourth Street several years ago.
"From the gas station that was here 100 years ago that the city had zero to do with. So joint, several and strict, they've got all the cards in their hands. We've got none," he explained.
Dolce said the city will be reimbursed some of that money because the problem was uncovered during a state Department of Transportation project.
Board member Richard Halas wanted to know how the DEC found out the Bertges site was polluted.
"They found out because this board decided to get a preferred developer and they wanted tax credits, so they looked for avenues to get tax credits. One of the avenues to get tax credits is the brownfield cleanup program," Neratko replied. "They went into the brownfield cleanup program with Krog and Turnkey. The three went and got a brownfield cleanup program, started entering it into the program. There you go now, that's why they have the information."
Neratko said the DEC document is extensive.
After the meeting Dolce said the city was looking to go under the Spills program as opposed to the brownfields program, which he said could cost the city some $200,000.
"After weighing our options over the past couple months, we thought the New York Spills program would be the best program for us to enter into right now," he said. "There may be some future costs down the road for the city that we would be obligated to, however once that site hit the brownfield program it's on the radar and at that point it needs to be addressed. So when the Bertges property was acquired this came with it and it now needs to be addressed."
According to the DEC's website, state or federal funds are not available to responsible parties or potential responsible parties for cleaning up properties contaminated with petroleum. Responsible parties are legally obligated to pay for cleanups themselves. Where the responsible party is unknown or unable to pay for a cleanup that DEC considers necessary to prevent risking public health or the environment, DEC generally finances the cleanup through the "New York Environmental Protection and Spill Compensation Fund" or the "Leaking Underground Storage Tank Fund," but in such cases, the state would pursue measures to recover its costs from the responsible party as well as interest and penalties.
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