LACKAWANNA, N.Y. – While Buffalo Fire’s new incident report may be a step toward the investigation's conclusion, it doesn't mean anything to the Bethlehem Park residents who feared for their lives last November, and who continue to fear for their health and safety now.
A fence is all that separates dozens of homes from what’s left of Bethlehem Steel.
Just beyond that fence, residents see sprinklers on during the day to keep asbestos out of the air.
It's supposed to help, but Mark Duane of Spruce Street worries it's a double edged sword.
"That water, and chemicals in that water, have to be going somewhere, so it's going into people's grass. And what happens years from now if something actually bad was in that stuff?" Duane said, facing the site from his front porch.
Lincoln Avenue resident Julie Redden's main concern is still air quality. She says workers beyond the fence often wear masks.
But she, her daughter, and her neighbors, all of whom are just feet away, aren't told they need to protect themselves when they're outside.
"I think the fear is really for the unknown," Redden said. "For the future, what we're breathing, how long we're going to be breathing it, what they're going to do to resolve it.”
Some homeowners are also critical of a lack of communication. They say leaders like Lackawanna's mayor and the New York State DEC, for example, were all at the front lines last November, assuring residents everything would be okay. Great Lakes Industrial Development, which owns the site, promised to be good neighbors and help clean houses.
Today, neighbors say they haven't heard anything from any leadership in months.
"I want to know when it's going to be finished, and it makes me nervous still about what could be over there, for my family and for all the kids in the neighborhood,” Redden said.
Great Lakes Industrial Development has so far declined to issue any statement, according to company spokesperson Phil Pantano.
Lackawanna Mayor Geoff Szymanski said by phone late Thursday night that the city hired a firm to monitor air quality the week after the fire, but not since then.
The DEC wrote by e-mail, saying they haven’t been involved in since the emergency ended 10 months ago.
Szymanski says the city is in ongoing litigation with Great Lakes Industrial Development to recoup the $550,000 that Lackawanna spent on emergency demolition for public safety.
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