Suit pending on landfill with Love Canal legacy

Four families have filed notice against the Town of Wheatfield alleging that a landfill with a Love Canal legacy made them sick through exposure to dangerous chemicals.

Each family intends to sue for $60 million in damages, according to the notices of claim filed Wednesday at the Wheatfield clerk’s office. Wheatfield Supervisor Robert Cliffe declined to comment.

One of the lawyers representing the families said test results of their soil and dust in their homes showed elevated levels of cancer-causing chemicals, including arsenic and PCBs. They charge that a toxic soup of chemicals migrated from the landfill onto their properties.

“These chemicals are unusual, they’re chemicals that are associated with the Love Canal,” said Mike Stag, with Smith Stag LLC in New Orleans. “We are finding them at levels that we find alarming. In fact, our environmental scientist described them as being shocking and very concerning.”

The landfill, off Nash Road on the border of Wheatfield and the City of North Tonawanda, has a Love Canal legacy. In late 2015, the state had a subsidiary of Occidental Chemical Co. remove 80 dumptruck loads of Love Canal waste buried at the landfill. In the process, the state Department of Environmental Conservation found more contamination and classified the landfill a Superfund site.

Investigative Post reported in February that Wheatfield officials and the state Department of Environmental Conservation maintained for decades that the landfill did not pose a danger. They also disregarded recommendations made by experts in the 1980s to secure the property with a fence and add controls to keep contamination from spreading.

Brett Grawe, one of the homeowners on Forbes Street who filed a claim, has liver cancer and kidney problems. He said the results of the soil and dust tests “scared” him. All four families reside in the City of North Tonawanda.

“I was in disbelief that it was in my neighborhood,” he said. “I’m worried about this street, my house, my family, I’m just concerned. I mean it’s crazy that this is happening and how could it have happened? And I’d like some answers.”

Read Investigative Post’s prior coverage about this landfill

Landfill still poses danger

Action to fence off toxic Wheatfield landfill

Toxic landfill still not secured