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Former Bethlehem Steel Site

Acid tar pits on a portion of the former Bethlehem Steel property.
Acid tar pits on a portion of the former Bethlehem Steel property.
The blue soil at the center is caused by cyanide


The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) invites you to attend a public meeting to discuss environmental cleanup actions proposed for a portion of the former Bethlehem Steel Corporation (BSC) property known as the Acid Tar Pits and Agitator Sludge Area. The property, located on the shores of Lake Erie in Lackawanna, NY, is now owned by Tecumseh Redevelopment Inc., (TRI).

The proposed environmental actions are explained in a document called the Focused Corrective Measures Study. DEC will accept public comments on the report from July 1 - August 14, 2009. The report is available at the locations listed in this fact sheet. An electronic version can be accessed in the right column. Written comments may be sent to project manager Stan Radon (address information provided below) or delivered in person at the public meeting. The meeting will be held Thursday July 16, 2009 at 7 PM in the Lackawanna Senior Center (230 Martin Road, Lackawanna 14218).

At the meeting, DEC and Tecumseh officials will explain the proposed plans for implementing an expedited cleanup at the Acid Tar Pits and Agitator Sludge Area to prevent recontamination of the recently-dredged Smokes Creek. Additionally, officials will present information about recent site activities and plans for developing a cleanup program for the entire site. Questions and comments will be welcomed. If time allows, updates on other site activities (Smokes Creek dredging, brownfield projects, wind farm) will be provided.


The Tecumseh Revelopment Inc. (TRI) Site is an approximately 500 acre portion of the former Bethlehem Steel Corporation facility in Lackawanna. The TRI property is located between the Metroport Ship Canal and Lake Erie to the west. The property also extends to the south of Smokes Creek along Lake Erie.

Site investigations were conducted primarily by Bethlehem Steel Corporation before that company filed for bankruptcy in 2001. Tecumseh Redevelopment Inc., a wholly owned-subsidiary of ArcelorMittal USA, Inc., completed and submitted the final site investigation report.

The investigation identified approximately 40 discrete locations, called Solid Waste Management Units (SWMUs), on the TRI Site that exhibit soil/fill and/or groundwater contamination. The United States Environmental Protection Agency and the DEC determined that these locations required further investigation and/or clean-up. The SWMUs are located in the vicinity of the former coke plant, former fuel storage area and slag fill areas along the western part of the site, where solid and/or hazardous waste from former steel-making operations were spilled or disposed many years ago by BSC. Contaminated sediment was also found to be present in several watercourses including Smokes Creek.

Several interim cleanup actions have been undertaken by Tecumseh since 2005 to restrict the migration of contamination from the site, including:

• Installing and operating a groundwater collection and treatment system in the coke by-products yard (also called the benzol yard) near the south-eastern end of the coke batteries;
• Collecting, treating and disposing or recycling residual wastewater and tar from various pipes, tanks, vessels and containment areas; and
• Dredging contaminated sediment and restoring flood water flow capacity from the lower reach of Smokes Creek to reduce the potential for upstream flooding.

Highlights of the Expedited Cleanup Actions Proposed for the Acid Tar Pits and Agitator Sludge Area

The purpose of the proposed environmental actions is to consolidate the solid and hazardous acid tar wastes from the Agitator Sludge Area and Acid Tar Pits into a single on-site containment cell to limit movement of surface and subsurface contaminants into adjacent groundwater and Smokes Creek. The proposed containment system consists of the following three basic components:

• Bentonite/Soil Slurry Wall - a low-permeability vertical subsurface wall to isolate waste and groundwater in the cell from the surrounding subsurface environment;
• Groundwater Collection System - to keep contaminated groundwater from leaking out of the containment area; and
• Cover system - a synthetic liner and vegetated soil cover to reduce infiltration of precipitation, promote stormwater runoff, and eliminate the potential for direct contact with the waste.

Next Steps

The Department will consider public comments before making a final determination about the cleanup actions for the Acid Tar Pits and Agitator Sludge Area proposed in the Focused CMS. If the DEC approves the plan, cleanup would begin in 2009 and be substantially complete in 2010.

Tecumseh has entered into a legal agreement (Consent Order) with DEC that requires Tecumseh to perform a second Corrective Measures Study for the entire TRI site. A report on this CMS, expected to be released in 2010, will propose final cleanup options for the entire site. Prior to selecting final cleanup actions, DEC will again seek public comment and input before making a final determination. Fact sheets similar to this one will be distributed to keep the public informed about important project developments.

Who Should I Contact If I Have Questions About the Site?

For more information about activities at the site, or if you have questions, comments, or concerns, we encourage you to contact the representatives listed below. If you know anyone who would like to be added to the mailing list to receive project updates, please have them contact one of the DEC representatives listed below.

Site-Related Project Questions

Mr. Stanley Radon
NYS DEC Region 9 Office
270 Michigan Avenue
Buffalo, NY 14203
(716) 851-7220

Mr. Larry Thomas
NYS DEC Central Office
625 Broadway
Albany, NY 12233-7258
(518) 402-8594

Site-Related Health Questions

Mr. Cameron O'Connor
NYS Department of Health
584 Delaware Avenue
Buffalo, NY 14202
(716) 847-4385

Locations to View Project Documents

Project documents can be viewed at the DEC Region 9 Office (see address above). Please call for an appointment. You can also view documents at the Lackawanna Public Library (560 Ridge Road, Lackawanna, NY 14218). The Focused Corrective Measures Study for the Acid Tar Pits and Agitator Sludge Area is also available in the right column. It has been broken down into text, tables, and individual figures. Figures 5 and 9 in the Focused CMS are too large for web viewing. They may be viewed at the DEC office or the Lackawanna Public Library.