10 tons of contaminated soil removed from Buffalo River each minute

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – All day and all night, every single minute, a crane lifts about 10 tons of soil from the bottom of the Buffalo River.

Sometimes it digs 25 feet down into the muck and pulls up soil contaminated with PCBs, lead and mercury, which is hauled away for storage at the old Bethlehem Steel site.

“We are finding a lot of tires, shopping carts, some bowling balls and most recently we have pulled up four cars from the same location,” said the EPA’s project director Mary Beth Giancarlo.

When it’s all said and done, they will lift enough contaminated sludge out of the river to fill almost 200 Olympic-sized swimming pools. The project costs $43 million, half of which is paid by the government and the other half paid for by Honeywell, which owns the former Buffalo Color land along the river.

“Well it’s something that our organization has worked for for 25 years. And for the past 10 years, we pulled together all the partners and resources to do it. So to see this almost come to the finish line is thrilling for us,” said Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper Executive Director Jill Jedlicka.

Buffalo Congressman Brian Higgins says progress begets progress.

“EPA officials have stood up and taken notice. Fish & Wildlife officials have stood up and taken notice about what’s happening in Buffalo.”

The dredging, which started last fall, will be finished by Christmas. That comes as welcome news to Kristin Hein, who was kayaking off Watefront Mutual Park in Buffalo’s First Ward.

“It would be great to see it be clean by at least the time I have kids. I really want to bring my kids, that’s my goal. We moved into the city, I just got my first house, we come here kayaking, fishing, you know, I don’t want to be worried if I fall in am I going to get sick,” said Hein.

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