The city of Buffalo is facing more than $100,000 in fines for mishandling hazardous materials that put city employees and residents at risk of exposure to mercury, chemical explosions, and everything else in between.
Some of these problems go back decades and were first recognized in 2008 when inspectors found that city employees were throwing spent lamps, which can contain small amounts of mercury, into the trash rather than safely disposing of them. Exposure to mercury can damage the central nervous system and cause breathing problems and memory impairment, especially in children.
That incident led to an agreement between Buffalo and the EPA in April 2011 that committed the city to properly manage hazardous waste. But five months later, EPA inspectors found that nearly a ton of ignitable paints, thinners and solvents were stored in hundreds of containers, many corroded and leaking.
EPA inspectors also found hundreds of spent lamps, some broken, stored in multiple building, including City Hall and the Buffalo Science Museum. This could lead to fire or explosion.