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Millions being spent to clean up former Chevy plant on East Delavan

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The underground groundwater contamination under the former Chevy plant on East Delavan Avenue has become another example of the problems of Buffalo's mixed sewer system, mixing sewage and stormwater and overflowing if there is heavy rain or snowmelt.

Under the old plant is a vast sewer line, brick-lined and 5' x 9'. It's old and a little fragile and the PCB-contaminated groundwater can seep through the wall of the pipe and flow farther into the sewer system.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Regional Remediation Engineer Chad Staniszewski said the goal is to keep the underground from flowing into the creek or river.

"So it discharges to the Scajaquada Drain, Scajaquada Drain eventually into Scajaquada Creek, eventually into the Niagara River. That's the issue on this site," he said. "We don't want that to happen for many reasons. And, really, Scajaquada Creek? It has its issues, right? We're working on cleaning up Scajaquada Creek, but it doesn't really matter if you have all of these inflows that are just going to recontaminate it."

The Buffalo Sewer Authority is planning to spend $400 million to build so much flexibility into the system those overflows won't occur. Albany is already spending millions to clean up the site, including a system to pump the groundwater to the surface for cleaning and storage in a holding tank until there is enough room in the giant sewer to take the cleaned waste to the city sewage plant on Bird Island.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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