Tonawanda News — Though she had only lived in Western New York for a couple of years — and in Buffalo at that — Corina Vacco felt so compelled by the concern of residents who live near the Tonawanda landfill that she attended meetings about the site’s safety, followed stories in the newspaper and just recently, from the other side of the country, wrote a book.
To be clear, Vacco’s young adult release, “My Chemical Mountain,” isn’t explicitly about the Tonawanda landfill — it doesn’t even use specific geographical names or references. But it was certainly inspired by the years of testing, meetings and citizen complaints about the site that sits right near the border of the city and town of Tonawanda, the author said.
Vacco’s interest in the landfill began in 2006 when a friend of hers living in the city expressed concern over the landfill.
“My friend lives right next to the landfill,” Vacco said. “She told me that she received a letter from the City of Tonawanda saying she couldn’t eat any vegetables out of her garden. She and her husband put up a greenhouse so they could grow. They tried to sell their house but couldn’t.”
Vacco had only just moved to Western New York two years earlier with her husband, who was transfered to the area as part of his job with the U.S. Coast Guard. They lived in Buffalo at the time, and even though the potential landfill problems didn’t concern her, Vacco said she couldn’t just ignore the problem.
“We’re all breathing the same air,” she said.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ultimately determined the levels of radioactive waste in the landfill weren’t harmful, but Vacco remained unconvinced. She went to meetings where she said residents’ concerns were often quickly shut down by officials.