Progress being made on Buffalo River dredging

Dec 6, 2013

Dozens and dozens of chemicals have been dumped into the Buffalo River over the last 100 years. But a collaborative cleanup effort along the River is now halfway through the second phase. WBFO's Eileen Buckley watched as a section of City Ship Canal off Fuhrmann Boulevard was being dredged Thursday afternoon.

The Buffalo River Restoration Partnership continued its dredging Thursday.  Attached to a crane floating on the river is a large claw-like piece of equipment.  It descends into the waters several feet down, pulling up muddy muck.

Dredging of the Buffalo River is now in its second phase.
Credit Eileen Buckley/WBFO News

The Restoration Partnership is an effort by the Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, EPA, DEC, U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and Honeywell. 

Riverkeeper Executive Director Jill Jedlicka says the partnership is targeting four major chemicals in the river: lead, mercury, PCBs, and PAHs.

"With those, we pull out dozens and dozens of other contaminants that have been put into the river over the last 100 years," Jedlicka says.

"They're very deep. They've been there for a long time. They reflect our industrial heritage," said the DEC's Martin Doster.

"The whole time they're there, they're constantly posing a problem for us [and] for fish and wildlife. These contaminants are bioaccumulative and they will accumulate in fish species and bird species right up through the food chain."  

The Restoration Partnership has leveraged nearly $75 million for the restoration.

"We're mechanically dredging," said Scott Cieniawski, is an Environmental Engineer and project manager for the EPA. "We're taking out about anywhere from two to eight feet of contaminated sediment from the bottom."

The EPA said the removed material is taken to a disposal facility out in the harbor "specifically designed for taking contaminated sediments." 

The clean up will continue into next year followed by habitat restoration.

"We're going to go back in and put clean materials in those holes and we're going to start planting and that gives fish and wildfowl places to rest," said Cieniawski. "It helps create a healthier eco system."

Partners say the cleanup will help transform the river into Buffalo's "new blue economy."