NRG Huntley Coal Announces Plans to Remediate Site

Once in 100 Year Opportunity to Transform Tonawanda’s Waterfront

Today is the deadline for the New York Department of Environmental Conservation’s public comment on the NRG’s application to remediate a portion of the 100 year old Huntley coal site, located on the Niagara River.

The NRG Huntley Coal facility announced closure in 2015 and stopped producing energy from coal in 2016.  At the time of closure the company was the largest polluter in Erie County. The company was no longer financially viable after the influx of natural gas into the energy markets. In March of 2018 NRG listed the site for sale, and in October applied for a portion of their site to be remiendiated under the New York State brownfields program.

The New York State Brownfield Program encourages private-sector cleanups of land that is contaminated. Companies that are approved are eligible for tax credits and may be relieved of future site liabilities. This application provides an opportunity to remediate and re-develop a portion of this site in a way that improves community health, creates jobs, and regains access to the waterfront for the first time in over 100 years.

The current brownfield application is for remediation of the south parcel portion of their site. Approximately 15 acres of this portion includes former coal piles, 3 acres includes the south settling ponds, 3 acres are occupied by two equalization basins. The remaining acreage, approximate 14 acres, consists of site roads and open space.

The presence of coal piles, ash ponds and a fly ash landfill on the site presents the possibility that toxic byproducts of coal waste (including arsenic, cadmium, chromium, mercury and selenium) are leaching into the soil, threatening the groundwater and the Niagara River.  Each one of these contaminants can be hazardous to human health.

In their own application, NRG states that arsenic has been found in the berms next to the River Road bike path.  Assessing the level of contamination is vital to remediation, redevelopment, and to eventually access the waterfront – objectives that are all very clearly stated in the town’s economic development plans.

In order to be accepted into the program, and secure valuable tax credits, a public comment process must be completed.

In our comment to the State of New York, we urged that remediation efforts must meet levels that are safe enough for humans to use this site for recreation and access to the water.

We also requested that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation require NRG to reassess the contaminants on their over 3,000 ft waterfront site.  The environmental assessment included in NRG’s state application dates back to 1998 –  completed 20 years ago at the time that NRG purchased the facility and site from Niagara Mohawk.

“The 20 year report is outdated,” our comment states, “and the scope is limited in number of samples and contaminants. We encourage an updated, more rigorous investigation of the site as part of the initial phase of the BCP process, and that this assessment be consistent with the potential use of the site to use for commercial and recreational activities. “

The November 9th deadline is the first phase of the remediation process.

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