State Senator Mark Grisanti unveiled a package of bills today that he says will protect the environment should hydraulic fracturing of natural gas move forward in New York. 

At a news conference in downtown Buffalo Friday, Grisanti said his bills would prohibit public sewage treatment plants from accepting wastewater from hydrofracking and would set up a system so that the public could easily access information about the location of gas wells. 

 The Western New York Stormwater Coalition held its 2012 conference at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center Tuesday.

Communities in Western New York and across the state; indeed, across the country are paying more attention to stormwater runoff. 

Carol Lamb-Lafay is with the State Department of Environmental Conservation.

“It’s in its infancy.  I think the Clean Water program has been around since 1972, but stormwater really took off in 2003,” said Lamb-Lafay.

WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

Western New York's mild winter has thrown the region's garden and growing season a sharp curve.  It has gardeners shaking their heads and commercial growers keeping their fingers crossed.

Those of us who've been around the block know the winter of 2011-2012 is one for the record books.  Snowfall in the 40 plus inch range and temperatures warm enough to keep the Great Lakes ice free.

John Farfaglia is an extension educator for Cornell Cooperative Extension in Niagara County.

    State Senator Mark Grisanti is introducing legislation Saturday that would require prompt public alerts to sewage spills that enter local waterways. 

The "Sewage Pollution Right to Know Act" would be an amendment to the environmental conservation law, requiring sewage treatment plants to notify the public within twenty-four hours of a raw sewage overflow. Grisanti claims that these overflows leach dangerous bacteria, toxins, pathogens and chemicals into recreational and commercial waters and the public has a right to know about them.

Alberto Mari / via Flickr

Niagara Falls has banned the treatment of fracking fluid.

The move comes after the Niagara Falls Water Board was openly considering treating fracking fluid from wells in Pennsylvania and Ohio in order to boost the city’s finances.

 The liquid is a toxic mix of chemicals and heavy metals used during the controversial natural gas drilling technique.

Opponents of fracking argue there is no safe way to purify the liquid before it is discharged into public water sources.

Unanimous vote

WBFO News file photo

The Environmental Protection Agency regional administrator appeared in the Town of Tonawanda Monday to announce a federal grant to study air pollution.  

Judith Enck announced the $100,000 federal grant.  Enck said the EPA is collaborating with the Clean Air Coalition of Western New York to study harmful air pollution in Tonawanda and review pollution causes and possible remedies.

Photo from crankbaits Website

The threat of Asian carp entering the Great Lakes, including Lake Erie and possibly destroying a multi-million dollar fishery, may be impossible to stop.  WBFO News contributor Ray Marks spoke with one expert who has followed the issue for over 10 years.  Tom Marks -- no relations to Ray Marks  --  is director of the New York State Great Lakes Sports Fishing Council.

EPA begins removal of drums from Le Roy

Feb 22, 2012

Western New York Congresswoman Kathy Hochul says the federal Environmental Protection Agency will  remove drums of toxic waste from a Superfund site in Le Roy by the end of this week. 

The waste will be disposed of at a landfill in Belleville, Michigan.  There has been speculation in Le Roy that the waste may be responsible for an outbreak of a tic-like illness among some high school students.  But most medical experts have dismissed that as the source.  

The barrels were left from the Lehigh Railroad Derailment Superfund site in LeRoy.

The LeRoy School District is expected to release a public assessment today on tests that have been performed at the LeRoy High School. The testing was conducted after eighteen students all suffered ticks and Tourette's-like symptoms. The District hired Leader Professional Services. The company will examine the testing and issue recommendations.

The review will be presented to parents from 9 to 10:00 this morning at the high school auditorium.

The proposed clean-up of the toxic spill site in LeRoy, which is at the center of investigations into a strange malady affecting eighteen students at the high school, must clear a hurdle.

Material from the spill site was planned for transfer to the CWM facility in Niagara County. That site is just one mile from the Lewiston-Porter School District.

Senator George Maziarz, Assemblyman John Ceretto and Superintendent Chris Roser have rejected that plan.

Superintendent of Le Roy schools is blasting environmentalist Erin Brockovich

Jan 31, 2012
Photo from Le Roy Central School District Website

The Superintendent of Le Roy Central School District in Genesee County is blasting environmentalist Erin Brockovich. 

Superintendent Kim Cox said the attempt by Brockovich's investigators to collect soil samples from school grounds represents an intrusion to the district. 

Brockovich entered the mystery that surrounds an indeterminent illness afflicting some students at the high school when she appeared on CNN.   Brockovich said attributing anything to toxic contamination represented hearsay until soil and vapor testing proved otherwise. 

Tonawanda Coke on River Road continues to face several lawsuits for polluting the air. 

A community activist continues to speak out against benzene and other toxic material that spews from the facility.

"Tonawanda Coke is still polluting," said Jackie James-Creedon, Kenmore resident and community activist in Kenmore-Tonawanda. She said  high benzene levels have been reduced, but she wants them reduced even more. 

"Benzene levels have been reduced.  It's better, but as far as what I'm interested in, I'm interested in reducing levels even further," said James-Creedon.

NYPIRG critical of Honeywell for mercury emissions

Dec 22, 2011
Jim Pastrick / WBFO News

Standing in the rain in front of Buffalo City Hall Wednesday morning, representatives of the New York Public Interest Research Group released a new report that takes Honeywell Corporation to task for its role in lobbying against legislation that would provide for capturing discarded mercury-containing thermostats in New York.

NYPIRG's Joseph Stelling told WBFO's Jim Pastrick that emissions data from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation point to an incinerator in Western New York as one that emits large quantities mercury into the air.

WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

The largest suburb in Western New York is making an overhaul of its garbage and recycling system.  And like the City of Buffalo, Amherst will soon offer large totes to collect more material that can be recycled.

The Town Supervisor of Amherst says the new system will be good for the environment and the town's budget.

When Amherst Town Supervisor Barry Weinstein talks about the new contract for picking up trash and recycling that begins in January, one phrase keeps coming up:   “And there’s more," said Weinstein.

Declining health of Lake Erie

Dec 15, 2011
WBFO News file photo

Back in the 70’s Lake Erie was called a dead lake because of pollution that resulted in little or no oxygen in a large part of the lake.

Today the lake is in declining health again from a number of sources. WBFO contributor Ray Marks takes a look at the issue.

NPR's Poisoned Places in America Series: Tonawanda Coke

Nov 10, 2011
WBFO News file photo

For decades, vast quantities of cancer-causing benzene and other toxic emissions emanated from the dilapidated Tonawanda Coke plant on the banks of Niagara River.

Thanks only to a group of sick people who live near the plant, federal and state regulators have started cracking down on this facility. High-tech monitoring shows benzene emissions were 30 times what the plant was reporting.

And that was after the plant had started to clean up.