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Environmental cleanup of the 9.1-acre Lehigh Industrial Park was declared closed today.

Lackawanna city officials and Department of Environmental Conservation directors capped a $700,000 Superfund program of demolitions, asbestos removal and waste containment with a closing ceremony that actually opens the way for "brownfields" redevelopment.

"The Lehigh site was an environmental problem for the community," Regional DEC Director Gerald Mikol said. "The DEC was able to investigate and clean up the property using the resources provided through the state Superfund."

The site at Lehigh Avenue and South Street, formerly used by Roblin Scrap Products, had high levels of PCB contamination as well as inorganic chemical "hot spots" and asbestos-laden buildings.

Bordered on one side by railroad yards and on the other by Ingham Avenue, the area now has been capped and seeded.

The First Ward site, Mayor Kathleen M. Staniszewski said, "has been reclaimed and can now be promoted for commercial development."

Twenty cubic yards of asbestos and 212 tons of contaminated soil was trucked from the old scrap yard. The soil went to Modern Landfill in Lewiston.

"The cleanup of the Lehigh site now offers abundant potential for development, new jobs and new economic opportunity for the residents of Lackawanna," said Charles Gargano, chairman of Empire State Development Corp. Demolition and remedial work began at the site March 31, after a year's delay. Efforts to clean the site had to be rebid when the contractor initially selected couldn't carry out the required work.

Included in the project were removal of asbestos from site buildings, demolition of the structures, removal and off-site disposal of the PCB-laden soils and on-site consolidation of all non-hazardous soil, waste and debris.

A storm-water system and catch basin was installed to control rainwater run-off. A foot of soil was stripped from the entire site, which then was covered with at least 9 inches of clean, low-leakage clay and 3 inches of topsoil. Seeding with a mixture of grasses designed to attract birds completed the work. Monitoring wells are part of a long-term maintenance program for the site.

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