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NY announces plan to cleanup former Lackawanna Bethlehem Steel site

The $69 million cleanup project will begin next year and provide public access to the waterfront.

LACKAWANNA, N.Y. — After more than a century, residents of Lackawanna will soon be able to access the waterfront from the previous Lackawanna Bethlehem Steel site.

Gov. Kathy Hochul announced the selection of a clean-up plan for the former Lackawanna Bethlehem Steel site. The estimated $69 million remediation will build on progress that has already been made. the project is slated to begin next year. 

"My family worked at the Bethlehem Steel plant and I know first-hand what cleaning up the former site in Lackawanna means for the people who live here," Hochul said

"Today marks a critical milestone in the rebirth of this city and this project is the perfect example of how New York State is rebuilding communities by putting former industrial sites like Bethlehem Steel to good use, helping transform neighborhoods, protecting the environment, and jumpstarting economic development."

The site was once a major economic engine of Western New York. The plant took up 1,600 acres for iron and steel production. Contamination left at the site is metals associated with the steel industry. These elevated levels of metal include arsenic. 

Additionally, the soil was impacted by semi-volatile organic carbon compounds, specifically polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, from railroads, oils, greases, and burning fossil fuels.

Cleanup of the plant is being advanced through New York State programs, including DEC's State Superfund Program, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act Corrective Action Program, and the Brownfield Cleanup Program.

A full statement about the project is available to the DEC website, which outlines the project objective of creating a sustainable restoration of the site and protect human health as well as the environment.

The companies that acquired the site after the steel company's bankruptcy took on the environmental liabilities and are legally required to: 

  • Complete a comprehensive remediation program that includes cleanup and monitoring of 489 acres of the former Bethlehem Steel site nearest to the Lake Erie shoreline
  • Provide closure and post-closure maintenance for the site, including financial assurances
  • Reimburse New York State for costs incurred for oversight of the cleanup;
  • Support robust public participation and engagement in developing and implementing site cleanup plans
  • Provide public access following cleanup to portions of the Lackawanna waterfront
  • Participate in a public/private partnership that will evaluate locations and designs to restore areas of Lackawanna's shoreline and improve habitat

"The former Bethlehem Steel site was once humming with jobs and economic activity, and now, with this significant progress, we're slowly but surely working our way towards seeing that potential again," said Senator Tim Kennedy. "Western New Yorkers will finally see a transformative approach to the site, and I'm excited to see the opportunities that this initiative will open up for the working men and women of Lackawanna. I commend New York State, the DEC, and Governor Hochul for recognizing the importance and impact this will have."

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