A $69 million environmental cleanup of the former Bethlehem Steel site in Lackawanna is poised to begin next year, clearing the way for the public to gain access to that portion of the Lake Erie waterfront for the first time in more than a century.
State officials on Wednesday announced that they have finalized remediation plans for the 489 acres of contaminated land nearest to the shoreline of the lake.
Those plans build on efforts that have already been underway for some time. Those efforts were unveiled in May and subject to public comments that were addressed in documents that detail the steps that will be taken and why that remedy was selected.
The aim is to restore the property and natural habitat in a way that protects human health and the environment, while advancing the state Department of Environmental Conservation's goals of preserving and connecting the site's natural resources, state officials said.
"My family worked at the Bethlehem Steel plant and I know firsthand what cleaning up the former site in Lackawanna means for the people who live here," said Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Lackawanna native. "Today marks a critical milestone in the rebirth of this city and this project is the perfect example of how New York State is rebuilding communities by putting former industrial sites like Bethlehem Steel to good use."
Once a dominant force in Lackawanna, Bethlehem Steel had used more than 1,600 acres for iron and steel production during its heyday, but left the site contaminated with arsenic and other metals, along with semi-volatile organic carbon compounds related to the use of rail transportation, oils, greases and fossil fuels, according to the state.
The remediation plans were required as part of a 2020 consent order about the cleanup between the DEC, Tecumseh Redevelopment and Tecumseh's former parent company, Arcelor Mittal USA, which assumed environmental responsibility after Bethlehem Steel's 2001 bankruptcy.
Various parts of the site will be handled under the state Superfund program, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act Corrective Action Program and Brownfield Cleanup Program.
"The cleanup and redevelopment of the former Bethlehem Steel site will be transformative for the City of Lackawanna and all of Western New York," said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos. "This rebirth, advancing under DEC oversight to ensure it is protective of public health and the environment, will yield benefits for the entire community."
The construction and cleanup work is expected to take seven years to complete. Details of the plans are available online.