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Nearly $140M from federal government will go to contaminated site cleanups, waterways in Western New York

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Lockmaster Tom Braunscheidel walks across a gate at the Black Rock Lock on Monday, March 6, 2023.

Posted on March 8, 2023

The cleanup of three contaminated sites in Niagara County used for World War II atomic energy and weapons programs will get another infusion of federal dollars.

Over 25 million pounds of uranium metals and over 30,000 pounds of thorium metals were used and became mixed into the soil at the former Simonds Saw and Steel Co. site in Lockport. The federal government announced $115.6 million will be spent there for work set to begin in 2024.

The Niagara Falls Storage Site in Lewiston will receive $10 million to clean up uranium ore waste used in the production of nuclear weapons as part of the Manhattan Project under the direction of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, with more than $500 million to be spent in coming years. And the Seaway Industrial Park in Tonawanda will get $2 million to support construction of a landfill cap where processed uranium ores from the Manhattan Project were dumped.

The three sites being rid of World War II contamination are the last of 10 sites to be addressed, with the other seven now remediated and restored, said Lt. Col. Colby Krug, the Buffalo District commander for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Cleanup of the Niagara Falls and Lockport sites are expected to be completed in 15 years, with the Seaway Industrial Park cleanup expected to begin in the coming months and conclude in 2028.

The cleanup won’t disturb the environment, Krug said.

“All of our cleanup actions are very protective of the groundwater, the soil and the air, and we have very robust monitoring and control programs in place to make sure that material does not move off-site,” Krug said. “We have years of investigations and current monitoring to make sure what was placed there decades ago hasn’t moved off-site.”

The total $139.7 million in U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects also includes $100,000 to back a five-year review of the cleanup of the Tonawanda Landfill in Tonawanda and nearly $24 million for waterway investments in Erie County.

Most of the waterway dollars – $21.2 million – will be used for maintenance and operation of the Black Rock Channel and Tonawanda Harbor and to evaluate the 110-year-old Black Rock lock and fund lock gate installation.

“This is a multimillion-dollar federal investment in clean communities and vibrant Western New York waterways,” Rep. Brian Higgins said. “We’ve made incredible waterfront progress, but to maximize the potential for recreational, commercial and fishing boat activities, investments in the water are just as important as investments along the water’s edge.”

The work will be carried out by the Buffalo District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“Our mission is to provide safe navigation, protect vital commerce and ensure the safety of human health and the environment,” Krug said. “Investments like this are critical for mission accomplishment.”

Buffalo Harbor will get the bulk of the remaining waterway funds, with $2.7 million to support continued dredging along the Outer Harbor of the navigation channel to maintain depths necessary for commercial shipments. Funds will also go for continued repairs to the north, south and west breakwaters. The north breakwall was reconstructed in 2021, and a new seawall was constructed at Ralph Wilson Centennial Park in 2022.

In addition, $710,000 is being allocated for surveillance of northern boundary waters between the United States and Canada. Sturgeon Point will receive $24,000 to support operation and maintenance needs and for sand bypassing and/or dredging to maintain the Sturgeon Point Marina. Olcott Harbor and Wilson Harbor will each get $8,000 for harbor maintenance.

In previously announced allocations, Times Beach Nature Preserve is to receive $10 million in federal infrastructure funds for repair work, along with $10 million secured by Higgins separately for improvements to Bird Island Pier.


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