SARATOGA SPRINGS -- Work is starting on a long-planned Superfund cleanup of contaminated soil at a site of a former coal gasification facility on the northern edge of downtown.
The Niagara Mohawk Saratoga Springs plant location is a federal Superfund site and will be cleaned up by current owner National Grid, under the supervision of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Work will start this month and is expected to continue through April.
The section of Excelsior Avenue in the "Red Spring" area, between High Rock Avenue and the Courtyard by Marriott Hotel, will be closed to traffic as early as this week. Southbound traffic is being detoured to High Rock, while northbound traffic will be stopped at Rock Street, except for traffic going to the hotel.
National Grid, as successor corporation to Niagara Mohawk, is paying for the cleanup under a legal agreement with the EPA. The cost is estimated at $6.5 million.
The work is timed to avoid disrupting Excelsior Avenue and the spring during the busy summer tourism and track season, the EPA said.
The site, where coal was turned into gas between 1868 and 1929 is contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and volatile organic compounds. This is the second and final phase of cleanup, with work concentrated on a half-acre between Excelsior, Warren and High Rock avenues. It includes a section of Excelsior, the green space where the Red Spring is located, and part of an adjoining parking lot.
"It is an important milestone in site cleanup, involving close planning and coordination between state, local and private partners," said EPA Regional Administrator Pete Lopez. "Saratoga's famed mineral springs have been an attraction since the time of the Revolutionary War. Our cleanup adds an extra layer of protection of the deep aquifer supplying the Old Red Spring well."
Soil in the work area will be solidified and stabilized with a cement-like material, and underground barriers will be installed to prevent further movement of contaminants.
Officials said the deep bedrock aquifer where the well draws water has not been impacted by the pollution. The well will either be retrofitted with a new steel casing or it will be moved to allow for a double-casing. It will be inaccessible to the public until the work is done.
A public meeting to explain the work in detail will begin at 7 p.m. on Nov. 13 at the Excelsior Springs Event Center, 47 Excelsior Ave.
The site began operation in 1868, with the Saratoga Gas Light Co. producing gas from coal, coke and petroleum products. The plant also generated electric power between 1886 and 1903. Gas production stopped in 1929, but it was still used for gas storage and distribution until the 1950s. Tars and other waste from the manufacturing process remained.
Following environmental investigations of the site and an adjoining property, where Niagara Mohawk had a regional service center, the EPA put the property on a national priorities list in 1990. In 2001-2002, contaminated soil was removed, and a groundwater treatment system was installed in the first phase of the cleanup.
After work is finished, the land will have permanent environmental easements and restrictions to prevent disturbance, according to EPA officials.