Old steel drums were found Wednesday where black ooze was discovered leaking out of the ground near the Bellevue Fire Hall on Como Park Boulevard in Cheektowaga.
The drums and soil contaminated with a petroleum substance are being dug up as part of a cleanup by Suit-Kote, an asphalt business adjacent to the fire hall.
Op-Tech Environmental Services of the Town of Tonawanda is performing the work for Suit-Kote, which came up with a plan in fall that was approved by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
"All they're doing is digging it out and taking it," said David Szymanski, a DEC technician monitoring the work.
A hole about 12 feet deep had been dug by Wednesday afternoon, and Szymanski said it's possible the work could be completed today.
A black puddle was discovered in the grass between the fire hall and the asphalt business by neighborhood environmentalist Donna Hosmer on Aug. 8. Hosmer watched Wednesday afternoon as barrels were dug up.
"There had to be at least 40 here," said Hosmer, who is president of the Cheektowaga Citizens Coalition. "How many years has that been leaking? How far has that migrated over the years?"
Szymanski said the contaminated dirt and drums would be disposed of in a secure landfill. Samples were taken of the substance in fall and analyzed, and it was found to be petroleum-based, he said.
"The barrels are in with the source material," he added.
The digging Wednesday was where the black ooze had been found last year, and there will be further excavation today, he said.
"They will excavate to the limits of the material they find," Szymanski said.
Hosmer said a resident in the neighborhood noticed the heavy equipment at the site Wednesday and called her.
"Why didn't they tell the people who originally found it that they were doing this?" she said.
Several residents drove into the fire hall parking lot and watched the work Wednesday.