Officials: It had potential to be another massive "Lackawanna Fire"

Posted at 1:02 PM, Dec 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-02 21:51:25-05

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has taken control of Morgan Materials, Inc. on Vulcan Street, Town of Tonawanda, for having stockpiles of "improperly and illegally" stored chemical wastes in seven warehouses.

Warehouses are now secured with 24/7 security as the EPA works to determine what sorts of chemicals are stored in 8,000 barrels, boxes and large cloth sacks with flammable and corrosive labels.

EPA and NYSDEC officials say owner Donald Sadkin was purchasing the waste chemicals since 1999 with hopes of combining them and then re-selling those to domestic or international companies.  

However, the market for the products was mostly non-existent, said EPA spokesperson Mike Basile.  The waste products then ended up being stored floor to ceiling in the warehouses - and continued to come in.  Basile said it almost seemed like it was a situation of a "chemical waste hoarder."

Lackawanna recently dealt with a massive fire in parts of the old Bethlehem Steel Complex on Route 5 that created clouds of toxic smoke forcing evacuations.  Basile said the situation at Morgan Materials had the "possibility of creating the same sort of event."

In November, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation issued a "Summary Abatement Order" (SAO) requiring the company to cease purchasing, receiving or acquiring chemical materials.  Regulatory action was taken after attempts to force the company to improve conditions were unsuccessful.

The job of cleanup has now been handed to the EPA which is using Superfund money for the multi-million dollar project.

Morgan Materials sits close to a residential area and the Charter School for Applied Technologies on Kenmore Avenue.  EPA personnel advised the school, residents and local HAZMAT coordinators of the action.

It is expected that cleanup could take 6 to 12 months to complete.

The EPA said it will re-categorize the chemicals then move them to either landfills or out-of-state locations for incineration.  Residents and school children in the area are not expected to be negatively impacted by the cleanup.

Donald Sadkin, owner of Morgan Materials, Inc., now faces fines for the cost of the cleanup and possible criminal charges depending on what the EPA investigation uncovers.

EPA Spokesperosn Mike Basile talks more about the situation in the attached video clip.

7 Eyewitness News Reporter Ed Reilly has more in his reports.