Our Industrial Legacy

Since the early 1900s, large manufacturing facilities have been attracted to the Town of Tonawanda by an abundant supply of fresh water and ready access to both raw materials and markets. Other facilities were constructed nearby to meet the demands of these companies for energy, transportation, distribution and other services. In time, this activity resulted in one of the busier centers of industry in the Buffalo Niagara region. Many of our fore-bearers and families maintained their livelyhoods in these industries along Niagara River.

In the early and mid-1900s, farm land was acquired for industrial development in the northern sector of the waterfront region – from the Grand Island Bridge to the City of Tonawanda border. New parcels were generally long and narrow, which would facilitate the flow of raw materials and production inland from the river’s edge. 

A handful of large facilities were constructed – most notably the Ashland Oil refinery – along with several smaller distribution terminals along River Road. River Road itself was built as a high-speed, four-lane highway up to the City of Tonawanda border – with plans to continue through the city to join another major highway. 

Various factors led to a halt in development plans. Changes within industries led to the closure of the Ashland refinery and many of the distribution terminals. Vacant lands remained vacant, as plans for new construction were shelved (e.g. – Hambleton, TNT Canada). River Road was never extended, as residents of the City of Tonawanda raised concerns about the destructive impact on their community. 

The result was an area in transition for many years. In the interim, a large landfill was opened adjacent to the former Ashland refinery, dominating the landscape.


In recent decades, however, several major facilities have closed (e.g. – Ashland Refinery, Wickwire Steel), technology has improved manufacturing processes and environmental regulations provide more control and oversight. Many corporations have adopted sustainable growth as a cornerstone of their business practices. Public and private entities exist to assist companies become more competitive and, at the same time, reduce their environmental impact. 

Beginning in the 1980s, however, the Town of Tonawanda set a new direction for the northern sector, changing waterfront zoning districts to promote light industry and recreation. Erie County developed a linear park along the river’s edge (Isle View Park) and a bike/hike path (Riverwalk). Several planning studies followed, each building on the goal to integrate economic development with the natural beauty of the Niagara River. 

A major step was taken in 2003 as a private developer, TM Montante, purchased approximately 100 acres of vacant land for a new business park. The developer retained the natural beauty of the site – including the preservation of many mature trees – and focused on solar technology as a competitive advantage. The Town of Tonawanda drafted new legislation to promote the production of solar energy. 

Although tremendous potential exists to promote sustainable development in the northern sector of the town’s waterfront region, there are several barriers that must be removed before potential turns into reality. While the southern and central sectors of the Town’s waterfront are dominated by large industries, the northern sector is an area with great potential for new development consistent with sustainable growth principles. Long, narrow properties must be assembled and reconfigured to meet the needs of prospective developers. Studies must be commissioned to assess the environmental condition of any given property, and to remediate any areas of concerns. Existing improvements (e.g. – buildings) may need to be removed.

Although impacts are area-wide and cumulative, efforts have focused on individual facilities based on their interest, expertise and financial resources. Smaller manufacturers and businesses that provide support services (e.g. – transportation, distribution) are less likely to have personnel, financial resources and expertise to address opportunities. 

Waterfront Initiatives and Opportunities

Goals and Objectives
The primary community revitalization objectives to be achieved by this project include: Retention and attraction of business, the redevelopment of vacant or underutilized properties, rehabilitation of contaminated sites and the enhancement of the waterfront region. Primary issues and or problems to be addressed by this project include a multiple brownfield sites and building a consensus on future uses for the proposed BOA. Objectives that are central to this project include the following: 

1) Clear identification and definition of a manageable study area. 

2) Formation of partnerships through public outreach and a visioning process. 

3) Preparation of an analysis that identifies compelling opportunities for revitalization, and describes other public and private measures needed to stimulate investment, promote revitalization and enhance community health and environmental conditions. 

The analysis shall include: 
• An overview of existing land use and zoning; 
• The number and size of brownfield sites; 
• Information on land ownership; 
• Current and anticipated uses of sites; 
• Other pertinent information about the environment. 

4) Completion of draft and final Pre-Nomination Study documents 

Completed Efforts prior to BOA Project
  • Town Incinerator demolished
  • Abandoned Buildings and storage tanks demolished at 5335 River Road. Soil remediated by NYSDEC 
  • Spaulding project was funded, team moved it forward
  • Five Phase I Environmental reviews conducted at various parcels
  • Army Corps of Engineers cleaned up Rattlesnake Creek
  • Town landfill started into closure process
  • GEICO project provided seed funding for North Youngmann Commerce Center
  • Roadway connections put in Town Comprehensive Plan
Elements and Details Identified Brownfield Sites:

Property Type

Number of Properties


% Acreage of TOA

Brownfield Properties




Underutilized & Abandoned Properties




Undeveloped/Vacant Properties




  • Site Reconnaissance conducted
  • Environmental Records reviewed and assembled
  • Historical Aerials (1927, 1951, 1972)

Includes Ashland I and the Tonawanda Landfill
  • Manhattan Project-related radiological materials need to be removed from the Tonawanda Landfill
  • Hazardous substances/petroleum contamination not fully assessed at Ashland I 

 Public Information Meeting - held 1/27/2011
 Final Pre-Nomination Report - November 12, 2012
 Appendicies - November 12, 2012

A voluntary technical assistance initiative that helps communities work with their manufacturing base to adapt and thrive in a new business era focused on sustainability. The program offers customized, hands-on assessments of production processes to reduce energy consumption, minimize carbon footprint, prevent pollution, increase safety and productivity, and drive innovation. 

Sustainability Initiative - Introduction

E3—Economy, Energy, and Environment—is a coordinated federal and local voluntary technical assistance initiative that helps communities work in conjunction with their manufacturing base to adapt and thrive in a new business era focused on sustainability while using green technology. 

Joining forces with the local community, E3 provides manufacturers with customized, hands-on assessments of production processes to reduce energy consumption, minimize their carbon footprint, prevent pollution, increase safety and productivity, and drive innovation. It includes but is not limited to assistance with the implementation of Lean-Clean-Green projects; employee training in green skills; and the identification of low interest loan opportunities. In summary, E3: 

  • Reduces environmental impacts while regaining a competitive advantage;
  • Promotes sustainable manufacturing and growth through innovative technology;
  • Improves the regional economy by retaining jobs in companies that are better positioned for global competition; and
  • Helps foster a smarter, safer and more efficient green workforce with attention to worker safety.

All projects pursued under E3 are focused on achieving the following five goals: 

1. Increased energy efficiency and sustainability; 
2. The provision of valuable technical training, jobs and skills training, assessments and support; 
3. Improved profitability of the local economy; 
4. Enabling growth; and 
5. Creating and retaining manufacturing jobs. 

As a result, E3 reduces environmental impacts while maintaining and increasing competitive advantages; promotes sustainable manufacturing and growth through innovative technology; improves the regional economy by retaining jobs in companies that are better positioned for global competition; and helps foster a smarter, safer and more efficient green workforce with attention to worker safety.

Each E3 Initiative is unique. The Town of Tonawanda E3 Sustainability Initiative (Tonawanda E3 Initiative) will tailor the E3 projects to meet the environmental, energy and economic needs of the Tonawanda community. In particular, this initiative will develop and maintain a special focus on air quality issues in the initial phases of the projects. 

The Tonawanda E3 Sustainability Initiative Charter defines and describes the details of the Tonawanda E3 Initiative, including the goals, background, participant capacities and list of potential E3 projects. 

Read the final charter

Tonawanda E3 Initiative Background
The Economy, Energy and Environment (E3) program is an interagency (U.S. Environmental Protection AgencyU.S. Department of EnergyU.S. Department of LaborU.S. Department of CommerceU.S. Small Business Administration) effort to provide a model of collaboration among local, regional and Federal agencies, utilities, manufacturers and other interested organizations in the community to 

• Invest in the local communities 
• Address energy and sustainability challenges 
• Provide valuable technical training and assessments, and 
• Enable economic growth. 

The E3 business model will provide a community-based approach to leveraging a wide range of technical resources, services, and knowledge from local, state and federal agencies to reduce energy consumption, conserve natural resources, minimize multi-media environmental impacts and strengthen economic savings. Specifically, E3’s Lean-Clean-Green offering provides significant value to a manufacturer by assessing various aspects of its business in order to help it establish pathways to being competitive and sustainable in the new “green” world. 

In the spring of 2011, EPA, NYSDEC, the Clean Air Coalition of Western New York (CACWNY) and the Town of Tonawanda hosted several meetings of federal, state, local and regional organizations to discuss implementation of an E3 Initiative in Tonawanda associated with air quality concerns. After these meetings, the group was expanded to include additional partners where strategies were discussed and outlines sketched to begin implementing an E3 Initiative in the Town of Tonawanda, New York. 

Organizations Participating in the Tonawanda E3 Initiative
1. Town of Tonawanda (TOT) goals for this project are to maintain focus and provide balance among all partners; to promote the needs of the residents and workforce in the Town of Tonawanda; to assist in coordination, general project management, process transparency, promotion of the Tonawanda E3 Initiative and communication. 

2. Town of Tonawanda Development Corporation (TTDC) goals for this project are to leverage existing relationships with Tonawanda businesses and industries and to introduce them to Tonawanda E3 Initiative and partners; to tie together existing sustainable development programs within industry and link them to the Tonawanda E3. 

3. Town of Tonawanda Commission for the Conservation of the Environment (TTCCE) goals for this project are to bring advisory guidance to the Town of Tonawanda about pollution prevention and grant opportunities specific to air quality initiatives. 

4. The Clean Air Coalition of Western New York (CACWNY) is partnered with the Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ). CACWNY is a grassroots, membership-based environmental health and justice organization. CACWNY protects the rights of Western New York residents to breathe clean air and live, work, and play in a healthy environment. To protect that right, the Coalition runs campaigns, develops community leaders and conducts community-based research. CACWNY’s goals for this project are to ensure transparency, assist in the development of projects to reduce hazardous air pollutants, and to ensure the voices of residents most impacted by pollution are included. 

5. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) implements New York State’s environmental laws and regulations and encourages pollution prevention initiatives across the state. Through the Environmental Protection Fund, it provides financial support for and oversight of the New York State Pollution Prevention Institute. It also works collaboratively with the New York State Pollution Prevention Coordinating Council, which includes NYSDEC, Empire State Development, the New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation (EFC) and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), to identify potential sources of funding for the implementation of pollution prevention projects. As funds are available, NYSDEC will continue to operate two air quality monitoring stations and a continuous benzene monitor in the Tonawanda community. NYSDEC’s goal for the Tonawanda E3 Initiative is to improve and protect Tonawanda’s environment, prevent pollution, and enhance the health, safety and welfare of the people of Tonawanda and their overall economic and social well-being. 

6. NYSERDA, a public benefit corporation, offers objective information and analysis, innovative programs, technical expertise and funding to help New Yorkers increase energy efficiency, save money, use renewable energy, and reduce their reliance on fossil fuels. NYSERDA professionals will work to protect our environment and create clean-energy jobs by identifying available technical and financial resources for the implementation of energy efficiency projects. 

7. New York State Pollution Prevention Institute (NYSP2I) is partnered with Insyte Consulting, the Golisano Institute for Sustainability and the Center for Integrated Manufacturing Studies (GIS-CIMS). NYSP2I fosters the transformation and development of sustainable businesses and organizations in New York State in a collaborative program committed to making the State a leader in environmental stewardship. The objectives of this collaboration include (a) Scoping - initial contact and discussion with a company, and the identification of improvement opportunities; (b) Assessment - assistance with the development of a baseline, and the development of product and process improvement recommendations, including cost and engineering feasibility analyses; and (c) Implementation - technical assistance in support of the implementation of recommended solutions, including annual follow-up to track critical environmental and cost metrics. 

8. Western New York Council on Occupational Safety and Health (WNYCOSH) is interested in promoting and advocating for worker health and safety through training, education, and advocacy. WNYCOSH goals for this project include identifying and reducing worker exposure. 

9. New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation (NYSEFC) goal is to complete emissions inventories for businesses and provide free, confidential technical assistance to small-business owners to assist compliance of air emission requirements. 

10. Insyte Consulting, the Manufacturing Extension Partnership Center in Western New York, in partnership with the NYSP2I, The Buffalo and Erie County Workforce Investment Board (WIB) and Buffalo State College Small Business Development Center (SBDC), will conduct outreach to the companies; lean, clean and energy efficiency assessments; technical assistance and training to Tonawanda’s manufacturers as part of its goal to reduce costs, save energy, and improve productivity for its clients. Insyte’s technical assistance includes, but is not limited to, lean planning and implementation, engineering process improvement projects, strategic planning and product/process innovation services. Insyte will also seek to expand partnerships and secure funding to ensure a successful E3 project in Tonawanda. 

11. Buffalo and Erie County Workforce Investment Board, Inc. (WIB), established under the provisions of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, is charged with developing, coordinating and overseeing publicly funded workforce development/training initiatives. A key goal of the Tonawanda E3 project is to foster a smarter and more efficient green workforce. In this regard the WIB can assist in the development of workforce training programs for the targeted manufacturing firms. Working through their One Stop Centers, they can provide recruitment, screening, and referral services to help employers hire skilled workers for E3 related job opportunities. 

12. Buffalo State College Small Business Development Center (SBDC) will provide one to one confidential business counseling to businesses that need assistance in identifying sources of funding and preparing a loan application and/or a business plan that is required by a lender or an investor while involved in the E3 initiative. 

The Industrial Assessment Center at Syracuse University has the mission to reduce energy intensity and carbon emissions among manufacturers in New York State. This is part of their larger mission to transform the way U.S. industry uses energy by supporting cost-shared research and development that provides solutions to the top energy challenges facing industry today. The IAC, in conjunction with the DOE’s Industrial Technology Program also seeks to promote a sustained corporate culture of energy efficiency and carbon management within industry. To align with its mission, ITP has embraced a goal to drive a 25% reduction in industrial energy intensity by 2017, guided by the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The strategy also calls for an 18% reduction in U.S. carbon intensity by 2012, guided by the Administration's National Goal to Reduce Emissions Intensity. 

13. National Grid supports New York State’s goal to reduce electric use projected in 2015 by 15%. This is in direct correlation with the Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (EEPS) of New York. National Grid offers energy efficiency programs that provide long-term economic and environmental benefits for the Tonawanda area. The electric retrofit programs provide technical assistance and incentives to municipal, commercial & industrial facilities to encourage the installation of energy efficient measures. National Grid’s objective is to present innovative energy efficient solutions, resulting in reduced energy use for the end-user, through the existing electric prescriptive and custom incentive programs. 

14. U.S. EPA Pollution Prevention, Green Suppliers Network and Climate Leaders Programs. EPA’s goals are to reduce quantifiable environmental impacts, to motivate manufacturers to implement sustainable practices, and to successfully weave together the activities of the five federal E3 partner agencies. As available, EPA will provide funds to support Tonawanda E3 Initiative activities in Tonawanda. In addition, EPA will provide administrative and technical support for the Tonawanda E3 Initiative program and will provide Train the Trainer services on the Carbon Footprint tool and other tools that support the Tonawanda E3 Initiative projects. 

15. U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Save Energy Now Leaders Program. Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. The goal of the DOE is to reduce energy intensity and carbon emissions among manufacturers in Tonawanda. This is part of their larger mission to transform the way U.S. industry uses energy by supporting cost-shared research and development that provides solutions to the top energy challenges facing industry today. IAC and ITP also seek to promote a sustained corporate culture of energy efficiency and carbon management within industry. To align with its mission, ITP has embraced a goal to drive a 25% reduction in industrial energy intensity by 2017, guided by the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The strategy also calls for an 18% reduction in U.S. carbon intensity by 2012, guided by the Administration's National Goal to Reduce Emissions Intensity. As available, DOE will provide additional funds to support E3 activities in Tonawanda. 

16. U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), Employment and Training Administration plans to help engage the state and/ or local workforce investment system in E3 Projects in order to assist E3-participating employers in meeting their workforce needs through activities such as connecting employers to local training programs and providing recruitment, screening, and referral services to help employers hire skilled workers; and to help engage the state and/or local workforce investment system to help dislocated workers anticipate and receive training for opportunities arising in areas with high E3 implementation, particularly through listing E3-related job opportunities in the appropriate state labor exchange system. 

17. U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC), Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) DOC’s MEP program is administered by the National Institute of Standard and Technology (NIST). Through the on-the-ground efforts of its partners (Insyte Consulting in Western New York), the NIST MEP’s mission is to improve the competitiveness of US based manufacturing through increased cost competitiveness and top line growth. As available, NIST MEP will provide administrative and technical support for the Tonawanda E3 Initiative program. Through programmatic investments in Insyte Consulting, NIST MEP provides direct technical assistance to manufacturers in this region. 

18. Small Business Administration (SBA). SBA’s goal is to provide assistance to Tonawanda businesses to help them expand and improve. SBA will help design and implement through the local SBDCs a training and assistance program for E3 clients that will provide information about SBA services and low interest loan programs and training and assistance in preparing applications to access appropriate loan funds. 

The Brownfield Program, made possible by the Superfund/Brownfield law in October 2003, provides municipalities and community based organizations with assistance, up to 90 percent of the eligible project costs, to complete revitalization plans and implementation strategies for areas or communities affected by the presence of brownfield sites, and site assessments for strategic brownfield sites. The program in New York is administered the Department of State with guidance from the Department of Environmental Conservation. The Town of Tonawanda has qualified a region as a Brownfield Opportunity Area (BOA) and is participating in the program stages.

Brownfield Opportunity Program

Brownfield Defined
2787ExistingConditions05052008 004 thumb
Abandoned gas terminal at 5335 River Road
A site, where the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse can be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant. 
Source: U.S. EPA 
Town of Tonawanda BOA Program - Step 1 Pre-Nomination Phase
The Town has received a grant through the New York State Department of State Brownfield Opportunity Areas Program to conduct a Pre-Nomination Study (this is the first of three required phases). The Town applied for the Brownfield Opportunity Area Pre-Nomination Study in June 2005. The award contract was received in 2010. In the five year period from 2005 to 2010, a large amount of activity has taken place in the BOA area. There has been brownfield site remediation, Phase I reports that have been obtained and industrial parks being developed. A large amount of acreage still needs to be identified and investigated.

The Tonawanda Brownfield Opportunity Area, a 1,743 acre area bounded by the Youngmann Expressway (I-290), Niagara Thruway (I-190), Niagara River and City of Tonawanda. A section is also located to the south of interstate 190 as well.

The purpose of the Tonawanda Brownfield Opportunity project is to develop an area wide revitalization and cleanup strategy for brownfield, vacant, abandoned and underutilized properties within the brownfield opportunity area. The area consists of 202 parcels in the Town and City of Tonawanda that include River Road properties, the North Youngmann Commerce Center, Tonawanda inactive landfill and the Spaulding Fibre property.

The town and our consultant LaBella Associates, P.C. worked together with the project steering committee which was comprised of members from NY State Department of State, Department of Environmental Conservation, Erie County and the City of Tonawanda. 

Town of Tonawanda BOA Program - Step 2 Nomination Phase
Since the completion of the Step 1 Pre-Nomination study the town in partnership with other agencies, has completed their Waterfront Land Use Plan Update, Waterfront Corridor Landscaping PlanComprehensive Plan Update and progressed redevelopment of the former Polymer Applications property and the North Youngmann Commerce Center. We have secured $275,400 in funding from the NY State Department of State for this work.

We are currently working on the Step 2 Nomination Phase. The primary community revitalization objectives to be achieved by this project include: Retention and attraction of business, the redevelopment of vacant or underutilized properties, rehabilitation of contaminated sites and the enhancement of the waterfront region. Primary issues and or problems to be addressed by this project include multiple brownfield sites and building a consensus on future uses for the proposed

BOA. Targeted completion of this phase is December 2016. The work will include:
Task 3.1: Community Participation Summary – Consultant shall assist Town 
Task 3.2: Techniques to Enlist Partners 
Task 4.1: Description of the Project and Boundary (to be presented as Section 1) 
Task 4.2: Community Participation and Techniques to Enlist Partners (to be presented as Section 2) 
Task 4.3: Analysis of the Proposed BOA (to be presented as Section 3) 
Task 4.4: Review of Strategic Brownfield Sites 
Task 5.1: Draft Revitalization Plan and Executive Summary 
Task 5.2: Draft Revitalization Plan and Executive Summary 
Task 5.3: Interagency/Partner Engagement 
Task 6.1: Preparation of Final Revitalization Plan 
Task 6.2: Application for Project Advancement 
Task 7.1: Environmental Assessment Form 
Task 7.2: Lead Agency 
Task 7.3: Determine Significance 
Task 7.4: Scoping Session 
Task 8.1 MWBE Quarterly Reports 
Task 8.2 Project Status Reports 
Task 8.3: Final Project Summary Report 
Task 8.4: Progress Report on Actions Taken to Advance Redevelopment and Revitalization 
Task 8.5 Revitalization Strategy Report. 

The town again has teamed with LaBella Associates, P.C. for the Step 2 Nomination Study. 

Visit the project website for additional information.

A Brief History
The Town of Tonawanda Landfill is a 55 acre property located off of East Park Drive, north of the I-290 Expressway and directly south of the City of Tonawanda in Erie County. Properties immediately north of the site include a residential neighborhood with industrial and commercial properties to the east along Main Street/Military Avenue. A National Grid power line transmission corridor abuts the southern border. A low-lying area generally referred to as the North Youngmann Commerce Center (Mudflats Operable Unit - Record of Decision) is just south of the National Grid corridor. Two Mile Creek flows north and is located about 850 feet to the west of the Landfill. 

The Town Landfill was first used for the disposal of municipal solid wastes in the 1930s and continued to operate until 1989. Throughout this period, the Landfill was primarily used for the disposal of household waste, incinerator ash from sewage sludge, garbage, incinerator by-pass waste, construction and demolition debris, and yard wastes. 

In 1942 the U.S. Army’s Manhattan Engineer District (MED) contracted with the Linde Air Products Company, located about a mile south of the Landfill, to refine uranium ores to be used in developing the atomic bomb during World War II. It is believed that large quantities of radioactive liquid effluent were discharged from Linde into the Tonawanda sewer system and into Two Mile Creek. It is also believed that 15,200 cubic yards of incinerated sewage sludge and contaminated soils dredged from Two Mile Creek, both containing radionuclides, were buried in the Landfill. 

In 1946, the Atomic Energy Act created the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) which assumed control of MED radioactive materials. In 1974, the AEC initiated an ad hoc program titled "Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program" (FUSRAP) to identify, assess and clean up sites with residual radioactive contamination resulting from the early years of the United States’ atomic energy and weapons program. The Department of Energy (DOE) assumed responsibility for FUSRAP and conducted the program under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). 

The Landfill ceased operating in 1989 and subsequent investigations were conducted by directives of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) to define the type and location of wastes, and to determine the quality of groundwater and surface water. 

Additional investigations were conducted by the DOE to identify and characterize the extent of radiological contamination at the site believed to be associated with MED activities at Linde during the late 1940s. In 1990, the DOE detected uranium ore and waste products along the north boundary of the Landfill abutting residential properties on Hackett Drive in the City of Tonawanda. In 1992, the DOE designated the Landfill for remedial action under FUSRAP as a vicinity property to the Linde FUSRAP site. 

It was also discovered that wastes contaminated by Americium–241 (a radioactive material used in the making of smoke detectors) were deposited in the southeast portion of Landfill in the early 1980s by a former smoke detector manufacturer located in the Town. The manufacturer was also illegally discharging this waste into the sanitary sewer. The Town, under the guidance of the Department of Health, cleaned the sewer system. A New York State Task Force determined in 1989 that it was safe to leave the Americium-241 material in place as long as several feet of fill and a Landfill cap were placed over the material. 

In 1994, the use of NEPA in governing FUSRAP was terminated and governance under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) was substituted. In 1997, the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), assumed management of FUSRAP from the DOE and in 1999, issued its Radiological Human Health Assessment (RHHA) for the Landfill. 

In December of 2001, the NYSDEC negotiated a Consent Order with the Town of Tonawanda which required that the Town complete a scheduled closure of the Landfill. However, due to the detection and presence of the MED material, final closure is incomplete pending a Record of Decision (ROD) to be issued by the US Army Corp of Engineers, Buffalo Division

Current Activity
Since 2002, the Town has overseen the Landfill’s cleanup and closure and has undertaken the following activities: 
• Excavation of buried waste located on the Niagara Mohawk Power Company right-of-way, and placing the excavated waste in the Landfill; 
• Grading the Landfill with select waste fill until final slope is achieved; 
• Constructing an impermeable cap over the entire Landfill that includes gas venting; 
• Constructing a leachate collection and discharge system; 
• Constructing a surface water collection and control system; and 
• Monitoring groundwater wells at the site during the closure and long term post-closure period. 

In April 2005, the USACE issued its Remedial Investigation Report (RIR), which concluded as follows:

“After the landfill is closed under NYSDEC regulations, including completion of the cap, all (radiological) risks are expected to be well below the CERCLA threshold.” 

In January 2007, USACE issued its Proposed Plan, based upon the RIR, which Plan concluded as follows: 

“…the radiological risks, for all media, of MED-like material present at the Tonawanda Landfill Vicinity Property, for the current and reasonable future site uses are within the CERCLA risk limit….USACE has determined that no further action is required at the Tonawanda Landfill Vicinity Property under (CERCLA).” 

In August 2007, the NYSDEC issued its Site Visit Report which set forth the results of radiological testing in the residential area on Hackett Drive north of the Landfill. In September 2007, the NYSDEC submitted to USACE its Comments on the Proposed Plan. 

The Corps recently completed the updated Baseline Risk Assessment for the Landfill Operable Unit of the Tonawanda Landfill Vicinity Property in June 2012. The updated Baseline Risk Assessment concludes the following: 

  • That for the current use of the Landfill Operable Unit, as it is currently configured, risks to human health from potential exposures to FUSRAP-related material are within the acceptable limits established in the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan (NCP)..
  • If the surface of the landfill is not maintained and is allowed to erode over time, exposing FUSRAP-related material that is currently buried, then risks to trespassers or other users on the site could increase above the NCP acceptable risk range within the 1,000-year evaluation period.

Based on the analysis provided in the updated Baseline Risk Assessment the Corps’ next step will be to prepare a Feasibility Study for the Landfill Operable Unit. The Feasibility Study will develop remedial alternatives which would be appropriate to mitigate potential future unacceptable risks from exposure to the buried FUSRAP-related material in the Landfill Operable Unit. 

The Town of Tonawanda does not accept this conclusion by the USACE and, along with the City of Tonawanda, Erie County and New York State we are actively seeking to reverse it in order to get the MED waste cleaned up as a vicinity property of the FUSRAP. 

Final grading of the Landfill is suspended, however the east portion has reached final grade and been closed. Final closure will depend upon the USACE’s position under FUSRAP. The future use of the closed Landfill will be determined by the Town of Tonawanda and is subject to the NYSDEC review and approval process.

The Town of Tonawanda in cooperation with Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper received grant funds from the NY State Department of State to study and document environmental influences on the Niagara River. A grant was recieved in 2010 from the NY State Department of State with funds provided under Title 11 of the Environmental Protection Fund and was completed in December 2014. 

The project was comprised of two primary elements:
Healthy Niagara-Strategic Watershed Management Planning and Implementation
Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper in partnership with the town and Erie County are developing a Niagara River Atlas, State of the Niagara River Watershed Report and Niagara River Watershed Management Plan. The watershed management plan will focus on New York's contributing area of the Niagara River watershed, an area of 1,225 square miles, encompassing parts of Niagara, Orleans, Genesee, Wyoming and Erie counties. The first phase of the watershed planning process will include assemblage of relevant data: watershed characterization; inventory of existing conditions; and identification of problems and opportunities. 

The Niagara River Watershed Report will provide citizens with current information on the health of the river, document successes and improvements, and inform as to how to become involved in the process. This project will advance the protection and restoration of water quality and ensure compatible land use development, while helping the river's natural resources. This effort is being lead by the Riverkeeper team.

Waterfront Land Use Plan Update
The effort, lead by the town, provides information to better evaluate development proposals and attract sustainable development that corresponds with the Town's waterfront vision. The project builds upon the town's adopted Local Waterfront Revitalization Program (LWRP) by identifying the most appropriate development/land use alternatives of vacant parcels and ensuring waterfront planning is consistent and coordinated with the LWRP. One significant project that has already been completed under this initiative was the shoreline stabilization of Two Mile Creek. The plan was also being conducted in concert with our brownfield opportuinty (BOA) area efforts.

Study Resources

Niagara River Islands
Frog Island construction
Frog Island Construction

Strawberry Island (pictured in the photo)
In 1815 the first Surveyor General for the State of New York surveyed Strawberry Island. It is within the Town of Tonawanda boundary. At that time the island was found to cover an area of about 100 acres and was valued at 100 dollars. Over the course of the next century the island was enlarged with fill from the excavation of the original Erie Canal and the construction of the Black Rock Lock. By the early 1900’s the island had expanded to 200 acres and was nearly two miles in length extending from a point abeam of the foot of Hertel Avenue in the City of Buffalo to Frog Island (now known as Motor Island). An extensive sand and gravel deposit existed beneath the island which would fuel the rapid development of the City of Buffalo. In 1912 the island was sold to the Border Island Gravel Company and within a year it was reduced to 100 acres. Dredging continued in earnest and then intermittently over the next several decades reducing the island to its present size of about 10 acres. On two occasions in 1926 and again in 1949 the US Army Corps of Engineers took legal action to stop the mining of the island’s sand and gravel resources by commercial interests under the provisions of the River and Harbor Act of 1899. 
The island was acquired by the Town of Tonawanda in 1953 for use as a staging area for the construction of a new potable water intake. In 1989 Strawberry Island was acquired by the State of New York and is now under the stewardship of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

Frog Island Habitat Improvement Project
Situated between Strawberry Island to the south and Motor Island (formerly known as Frog Island) to the north and straddling the border between the towns of Tonawanda and Grand Island an island will be established that will add value to the aquatic environment the Niagara River. The creation of approximately five acres of diverse habitat will create a high-energy environment consisting of coarse (boulders, cobbles and gravel) and fine (muck, silt, clay and sand) substrate at variable depths that will support a variety of fish and wildlife species.

As part of the New York State Power Authority Niagara River Re-Licensing Agreement, the NYS Department of Environment and Conservation began planning and design in 2007 and construction is anticipated to be complete in 2014. The work progress can be watched from the Town of Tonawanda Boat Launch viewing area.

Motor Island (formerly Frog Island)
There are many wildlife species to be seen near Motor Island Wildlife Management Area (WMA). Waterbirds found nesting on the island include mallards, Canadian geese, ring-billed gulls, double-crested cormorants, great blue herons, black crowned night herons and great egrets. Some waterfowl hunting takes place along the perimeter of the island which is within the Town of Grand Island boundary. 
The area was purchased in 1998 by the DEC with funding from the 1996 Environmental Quality Bond Act. The area was acquired to protect habitat for a unique group of colonial nesting birds which is part of a large significant coastal habitat critical to the Niagara River Ecosystem. At this time, the Bureau of Wildlife is not conducting any land management activities on the island. However, the New York Power Authority is implementing the Motor Island Shoreline Restoration Habitat Improvement Project. This project is part of the requirements in the power authority's Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) license and NYS Water Quality Certificate for the Niagara Power Project. This Habitat Improvement Project (HIP) was developed jointly with DEC and involves some invasive species removal and shoreline habitat creation.

 Historical Comparative Map