Almost 23 Olympic-sized swimming pools of contaminated soil are being excavated and hauled away for disposal from a remediation project in the shadow of the Father Baker Bridge.
A few weeks ago, work on the $7.4 million project started on the 20-acre parcel at the Buffalo Lakeside Commerce Park, which motorists on Route 5 see on the north side of the Union Ship Canal.
The state Superfund site is a piece of a larger 113-acre site formerly occupied by Hanna Furnace's iron foundry, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation. It's the part of the property that "was often called the 'filter cake/flue ash' area" where industrial byproducts from Hanna's pig iron processing were stored.
"This is the only area in Buffalo Lakeside Commerce Park that required Superfund cleanup," said Peter M. Cammarata, president of the Buffalo Urban Development Corp., which currently owns the property.
About 10 percent of the soil being taken off the site is expected to be disposed of as "hazardous waste," the DEC said.
The DEC said the parcel now being cleaned up was a marsh and a pond as recently as 1960. That's when Hanna bought the property from the Pennsylvania Railroad.
Unlike other sites at the commerce park that are just covered by industrial slag fill and require only a system to cover it, this site is contaminated with buried cyanide-contaminated fill that's colored blue as well as filter cash, flue ash and other residues from the past operations at Hanna.
"This particular site was where the old flue ash was from Hanna Furnace," Cammarata said. "It really needed to be a 'dig and haul and get it out of there.'"
Once the contaminants are removed, contracts call for clean fill to be filled back onto the site with a cover of parking areas, sidewalks or more soil that will allow for the site to be used for future commercial uses.
Cammarata said the development corporation will market the site as separate 4 to 5 acre parcels.
The cleanup should be finished next year.
The Superfund cleanup, when completed, will make these 20 acres actually cleaner than other available sites being marketed for development at the commerce park where industrial slag fill still remain.
But, there's one caveat.
"This will be more pristine," Cammarata said. "But, it will be not eligible for the Brownfield Cleanup Program."