LACKAWANNA, NY - The lingering smell of burnt plastic in the Bethlehem Park neighborhood remains, one week after the former Bethlehem Steel site caught fire. The smell is floating into the neighborhood as demolition efforts continue.
"It isn't normal, the smell is still pretty toxic in the air," said Nicole, a local resident visiting her parents. "The smell is really, really bad and it's still getting into people's homes."
The stench is impacting her life, she said.
"I can't even let my kids go outside because of the air quality," she said.
For people who work outdoors, for a living, they have questions.
"Am I picking up something here, is there something in the ground," said Kevin Scanlon, an independent contractor. "Is there something in the air? Did the house get filled with it? Did the space I'm working on, the porch, was it wide open at the time? Is there something I need to know about? Those are things I need to be aware of."
Even though the state has released details on the chemicals that were released during the fire, including that many locations at one point contained high levels of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), people here say for days they've had questions that have gone unanswered.
A lot of numbers here from the DEC on "Volatile Organic Compounds". Locations near Lackawanna fire had extremely high levels in some cases. pic.twitter.com/SSBRHlin1R— Danny Spewak (@DannySpewakWGRZ) November 16, 2016
Should homeowners turn on their furnace? What to do about vents and filters inside their homes? How should soot be properly cleaned?
"I think there's been a lack of information," Scanlon said. "As always we're always left in the dark, not enough light."
Assembly member Mickey Kearns is calling on state environmental and health officials to hold a public forum, to answer questions residents have.
"I think they've been communicating with the community through the media and I don't think that's good enough," Kearns said. "In the past, they've had some problems of openness and transparency, there were some hearings in Albany. We could always hold hearings in Albany on that if it came to that."
On Wednesday, representatives from the Erie County Health Department also went door-to-door in Bethlehem Park to distribute information on how to clean up soot. Those directions include replacing or washing air filters before turning on the heat and using detergent and water to clean inside, among others.
"We decided to go out door-to-door and deliver the information directly to the people affected," Erie County Health Commissioner Gale Burstein said. "Because I know it is devastating."