An investigation is under way to determine the cleanup needed at the former city dump.
The seven-acre property, which the state Department of Environmental Conservation calls the Old Upper Mountain Road site, consists of seven parcels on the city's western border.
The city owns part of it, but another slice is owned by the Town of Lockport. The other owners are private. All run the risk of being stuck with some of the cleanup tab, said Greg Sutton, a DEC regional hazardous waste remedial engineer.
"It's too early to tell at this point," he said. "There's very little information because it operated as a landfill so long ago."
The city's landfill operation continued from 1921 until the 1950s. "This looks like an old landfill that was backfilled into a gorge," Sutton said.
"In terms of the threat, it's an exposure issue," said Mark Baetzhold, DEC spokesman. "If people ignore the [warning] signs, they could be exposed to contamination from the soil."
Old Upper Mountain Road forms the western boundary of the Superfund site. It's bounded on the south and east by the Somerset Railroad and on the north by a ravine and creek called the Gulf, which flows north and enters Eighteenmile Creek about a mile away.
Sutton said this site was on the back burner for many years. "There were some samples taken by the department in the early 1990s that didn't show enough to move it to the top of the pile," he said.
The Niagara County Soil and Water Conservation District changed all that by expanding the boundaries of the Eighteenmile Creek "area of concern" into the City of Lockport. That creek is believed to have carried old industrial pollutants into Lake Ontario.
More borings and test pits are to be dug next month, with results expected by midsummer.
"It's mixed waste. Primarily it's ash. They burned the waste," Sutton said.
Once the test results are in, the DEC will conduct a cleanup feasibility study. A public comment period, including a public meeting, will be scheduled.