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State awards grant for cleanup of ex-Roblin Steel site in Dunkirk

New York state has awarded a $1.9 million grant to Chautauqua County to pay for the cleanup of environmental contamination at the former Roblin Steel site in Dunkirk.

The award, which comes after previous state and federal grants totaling $335,000, marks the biggest step in the process of returning the 12-acre site to business use after being abandoned and vacant for nearly 20 years.

The county will use the money, awarded under the municipal brownfields section of the New York State Bond Act, to dig up and remove contaminated soil, debris and sediment; treat the ground water; install an asphalt pavement or soil cover over the site; remove asbestos from the existing structure; and close drainage systems leading to Hyde Creek.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation is expected to approve the cleanup plan later this year and officials with the county and adviser TVGA Consultants expect to perform the cleanup next spring and summer, said Rob Napieralski, a TVGA principal.

Located in the Progress Park industrial area, the former steel plant is considered one of the county's highest priority brownfields redevelopment sites.

Used for heavy industrial purposes since 1910, it was originally part of Brooks Locomotive Works at the beginning of the 1900s and was later purchased by American Locomotive Co.

Eventually, the facility on South Roberts Road was one of three area plants owned by Roblin Steel, which took scrap steel and transformed it into new steel products. The plant has been vacant for years, however, and has been the subject of complaints by some residents concerned over its appearance, safety and upkeep. It was acquired by the county through tax foreclosure in December 2001.

At that time, a full on-site investigation determined that the steel-making operations had contaminated the soil, sediment and groundwater with metals, PCBs and "semi-volatile organic compounds" created by the burning of fossil fuels.

TVGA helped the county apply for $235,000 under the same state grant program for an initial investigation and evaluation of options. It also obtained a $100,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to design a cleanup program. The federal money will also be used to fulfill the county's 10 percent match against the new state grant.

Besides designing the cleanup, TVGA will oversee the contractors' work, certify the cleanup and perform any needed ongoing groundwater monitoring. The contract will likely go out for bid early next year, Napieralski said.

e-mail: jepstein@buffnews.com

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