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LOCKPORT – The estimated $11 million cleanup of old coal tar around a Lockport electrical substation is ahead of schedule, a New York State Electric & Gas Corp. official said Monday.

Local operations supervisor Paul Corney made the statement to reporters after the city Planning Board unanimously approved a new electric control house and a 70-foot communications tower on the site.

“We’re starting to merge our electrical work with the remediation work,” Cordey said.

The city planners gave the go-ahead for a modernized 22-by-30-foot control house, which is to replace a 20-by-40-foot building slated for demolition on the site bounded by South Transit, LaGrange and Saxton streets.

LaGrange Street was closed Feb. 19 for what was described at the time as an 18-month remediation of coal tar that sometimes seeps through cracks in the bedrock into the nearby Erie Canal.

The site, which measures about nine-tenths of an acre, was used from 1851 to 1927 for a coal gasification plant, which converted coal into burnable gas. The byproduct of the process was a liquid about the consistency of motor oil.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation approved a plan calling for the excavation of about 4,000 cubic yards of contaminated material from the property, now occupied by the NYSEG substation, and 3,200 cubic yards from beneath LaGrange Street.

The material is being burned at the Covanta incinerator in Niagara Falls.

The relocated control house is prefabricated and the steel parts already are waiting at NYSEG’s office on Lincoln Avenue in Lockport, Corney said. Construction is scheduled for Aug. 18.

The new control house will replace outdated electrical equipment, Corney said. “Our old equipment dated from the ’60s and the ’50s,” he said.

There will be modern circuit breakers and a smaller transformer to supply power to the building, which will be unmanned, said Gary Palumbo of URS Corp., the engineering firm for the project.

The 70-foot steel lightning and communications mast will provide automatic communication from the Lockport substation to NYSEG headquarters in Binghamton. It will not require guy wires for support, Corney said.

“We’ve got to phase in the electrical work, since we can’t turn the power off,” he added.

Palumbo said the mast will not be used for telecommunications, such as cellphone transmissions, and space will not be allowed for other users.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com