Wide Beach Development Case Study
Note: EPA no longer updates this information, but it may be useful as a reference or resource.
Last Updated January 1999
Wide Beach Development
PCB-contaminated roads, driveways, and yards in a residential community
Properties safe for residents and vacationers
Resort community preserved, property values and vacation rental revenues retained, and area waters protected
Each summer as temperatures climb, the Wide Beach Development located in the resort town of Brant, New York, swells with vacationers eager to relax, unwind, and enjoy the cool waters of Lake Erie. In the early 1980s, however, the discovery of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) on the roads and many of the properties almost forced residents to abandon their homes. Many of the property owners also faced the possibility of losing the rental income they had come to expect every summer. What follows is the story of how EPA worked with others to clean up and preserve this quiet resort community and of the positive economic impacts and the social and environmental benefits that resulted.
For over a decade, the Wide Beach Development Homeowners Association sprayed thousands of gallons of waste oil onto area dirt roads to control dust. Unknown to members of the Homeowners Association, the waste oil they used all those years was contaminated with PCBs, a suspected cancer-causing agent. In 1980, the Homeowners Association removed several tons of soil from the roads and neighboring yards to make room for a new sewer line. The soil was moved to a nearby community center where local residents used it in their gardens and yards. This action by the unsuspecting property owners resulted in PCB-contaminated soil being spread throughout the community. The Erie County Department of Environment and Planning (ECDEP) discovered PCBs when they investigated an odor complaint from the residents. ECDEP called on EPA for help.
From Toxic Waste...
After its investigations, EPA added Wide Beach Development to its list of hazardous waste sites needing cleanup. EPA was concerned about the residents coming into contact with the PCBs and the contamination spreading throughout the waterfront homes into Lake Erie. To protect the community and the environment, EPA worked closely with the State of New York and the homeowners to remove the contaminated soil from the roads and yards. As part of this effort, EPA worked with each affected property owner to select a time to clean their property that would cause as little disruption as possible. EPA also returned homeowners' yards and gardens to their original state.
Removal of PCB-laden soil and restoration of the contaminated areas ensured the protection of human health and the environment and helped to preserve this resort community. Residents and vacationers no longer worry about the PCBs that once polluted their properties and roads. As a result, the town's homeowners, restaurateurs, and business owners continue to serve tourists eager to vacation along the beaches of Lake Erie.
The cleanup of contaminated properties in the Wide Beach Development protected property values and ensured the community's economic viability. Homeowners continue to rent their homes to vacationers, and local businesses benefit from the infusion of tourist dollars into the community. The cleanup also protects those who live in or visit the area, and prevents the contamination of nearby waters. Perhaps the most important benefit of the cleanup, however, is the preservation of the community itself, as residents are able to continue to use their homes, yards, and gardens.
Keys to Success
A key ingredient of the successful cleanup and continued use of the Wide Beach community was the involvement of all interested parties in the decision-making process. EPA consulted with the state, ECDEP, and the community during the development of the cleanup plan. During cleanup, EPA provided status reports and coordinated activities with the Homeowners Association. EPA also met with individual property owners to schedule convenient times for the removal and replacement of the soil in their yards. The result was a well-understood and well-coordinated process that allowed EPA to perform the cleanup effectively while allowing residents to continue to use their properties.
For more information about the cleanup and redevelopment of the Wide Beach Development site, contact:
Dan Forger, Remedial Project Manager
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
New York, NY 10007-1866