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NIAGARA FALLS – Some 3,000 tons of soil contaminated with coal tar from a Lockport brownfield are to be burned at the Covanta Niagara incinerator in Niagara Falls.

Kevin O’Neil, Covanta’s business manager, said Friday that the state Department of Environmental Conservation has issued special permission for the material to be burned at the 56th Street incinerator.

DEC spokeswoman Kristen Davidson confirmed O’Neil’s statement.

New York State Electric & Gas Corp. closed a block of LaGrange Street in Lockport Feb. 19 for what might be an 18-month cleanup of the site of a one-time coal gasification plant, now occupied by an electric substation.

Coal tar, the byproduct from turning coal into manufactured gas, is buried beneath the substation and the street. The DEC ordered a cleanup because the tar has been seeping through the bedrock leading to the walls of the Erie Canal 200 feet away.

“We’ve done a number of these coal tar cleanups,” O’Neil said, adding that 300 to 400 tons already have been burned at Covanta Niagara.

He said he was expecting about 3,000 tons before the LaGrange Street project is over, “95 percent of which is dirt. If you were to look at it, you’d say it was a pile of dirt. It has little tar balls and stuff in it.”

The manufactured gas plant operated from 1851 to 1927. It is the second coal tar site NYSEG has had to clean up in Lockport. In 2007-08, the utility removed material from a State Road site, on the opposite side of South Transit Street from the current work site. That also was ordered because tar was leaking into the canal.

O’Neil said, “There’s no change in emissions [from the incinerator]. The material is disposed of at 2,200 degrees. What you get is well-toasted dirt. That is treated as ash and taken to landfills, where it’s used as top cover.”

He said Covanta has arrangements to take the ash to either Modern Disposal in Lewiston or the Allied Waste Pine Avenue landfill, also known as Republic Services.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com