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LOCKPORT – LaGrange Street will be dug up – sometime.

New York State Electric & Gas Corp. is planning a major excavation of the Lockport street to remove buried coal tar that is leaking into the Erie Canal.

But no one is sure exactly when it will happen.

NYSEG spokesman Clayton Ellis said there was a manufactured gas plant at the site from 1851 to 1927, which converted coal into gas, leaving coal tar as a byproduct.

City Engineer Norman D. Allen told the Common Council late last month that the cleanup will involve digging up LaGrange all the way down to the bedrock.

That’s about 12 feet deep, Ellis said.

And it could be expensive.

Four years ago, when a public meeting was held regarding the cleanup plan, the price tag for the work was estimated at $11 million.

Recently, Mayor Michael W. Tucker grimaced while thinking about the traffic woes that would result from the work.

LaGrange is next to a gas station that has a Tim Hortons franchise, and the drive-thru lane can be accessed from LaGrange. The street intersects with South Transit Street, Route 78.

“It’s a mess there on a good day,” Tucker said.

This is the second NYSEG manufactured gas site to be remediated in Lockport. The first, on State Road near South Transit, had been the location of the coal tar-processing plant for the gas production facility that left the buried coal tar that is to be dug up.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation has yet to comment on NYSEG’s proposed plan.

“NYSEG has quite a bit of prep work to do on their end in the meantime,” said Kristen Davidson, a spokeswoman for the state DEC. “DEC is hoping to approve the design this year but is dependent on NYSEG’s work on their station. When a timeline is ready, it will be available to the public.”

Officials at NYSEG said the effort is part of ongoing work.

“The remediation work will be done under a consent order between NYSEG and the DEC,” Ellis wrote in an email to The Buffalo News. “This order covers 36 former manufactured gas plant sites; five sites, including the Lockport State Street site, have been adequately remediated, and no further action is required.”

Ellis said the gas plant was built by the Lockport Gas Light Co., which later became the Lockport Light, Heat & Power Co. NYSEG took ownership of the site in 1930.

NYSEG now operates an electric substation at South Transit and LaGrange, which in Tucker’s opinion is none too attractive.

“I’ve asked them to make it more aesthetically pleasing on the South Transit Street side of the substation,” Tucker said.

Ellis said the substation fence is to be replaced, and the company also may put in some plantings.

“State regulations do not permit us to spend beyond what is necessary for remediation projects,” he said.

About 75 percent of LaGrange between South Transit and Saxton Street is to be excavated down to bedrock to make sure all the coal tar is removed, Ellis said. The leaching into the canal also is to be eliminated, he added. The leak is below the water level during the navigation season.

NYSEG started investigating the site in 1983, the DEC’s Davidson said. The remedial investigation began in November 2004, and the final report came out in 2007.

“Material removed from the site would be taken to a DEC-approved landfill or a DEC-approved thermal treatment facility,” Ellis said. “The state Department of Health required air monitoring at the perimeter of the site when work is being done. Corrective actions would be taken well before any predetermined action levels were reached.”

He said NYSEG does not expect electricity transmission to be affected by the work near the substation.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com