Environmental clean-up activity at the former NYSEG manufactured gas plant on Water Street is expected to begin again in August, according to Penn Yan Mayor Leigh MacKerchar and a NYSEG spokesperson.

The conclusion of that clean-up project will eventually clear the way for the village to construct a pedestrian bridge replacing the former railroad trestle which was removed so contaminated sediment could be removed from an area of the Keuka Outlet near the Main Street bridge.

The project has included excavation and disposal of soil contaminated by coal tar from the ground and contaminated sediment removed from the Keuka Outlet.

The work began in late 2015, and was slated to be completed in May, when decisions about the future of the iconic stone building would be made. Originally expected to cost about $8 million, the project had already cost $10 million by last summer.

Work that will be done includes structural work to the building’s foundation, and ground remediation, according to Kevin Ortiz, spokesperson for Avangrid, which owns NYSEG.

The clean up action at the site was paused last summer when the 1899 stone building settled excessively during excavation of soil beneath it.

The initial intent was to conduct the clean-up so the land would meet residential environmental standards without demolishing the stone structure, but excavation near building raised issues with its stability.

When the project began, NYSEG officials said they were open to discussions with the community about the best future use of the building.

The cleanup plan was developed and is being carried out with oversight from the New York State Dept. of Environmental Conservation.

The manufactured gas plant was built in 1899 and operated there until 1931. Gas was manufactured by Penn Yan Light Company using a coal gasification process. A gas holder and some accessory buildings were demolished sometime after 1931.

According to DEC documents, the practice of manufacturing gas in New York State began in 1826 with a small demonstration plant in New York City that produced gas from whale oil. The last plant in the state closed in 1972.

After gas manufacturing in Penn Yan ceased, the building was converted to a malt house and wood storage. At one point, a warehouse was attached to the west side of the building, and the combined structure was used for a wine distribution center, and later as an auto sales and repair business. The warehouse, except for its concrete floor, was demolished in 2004. The floor was covered with soil to deter recreational use.

The site was investigated at different times between 1991 and 2008.

The DEC identified 235 contaminated manufactured gas sites around New York State. The Penn Yan plant is one of 38 owned by NYSEG.

MacKerchar says a footer for the pedestrian bridge is located on the gas plant property, so that project has been stalled and the state funding package has been extended. He expects work on the bridge can begin later this year.

Boundary clarification

Meanwhile, village officials have had discussions with New York State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation officials about a land transaction between the village and Birkett Mills on the east side of the Main Street bridge.

Last September, the village and Birkett Mills exchanged property in an agreement that was an effort to resolve encroachment on village park land by the company. After a village resident raised questions about the exchange, state officials reviewed the transaction and determined that the village must seek state legislature approval for the transaction. 

The state says the property that has been encroached upon was developed with financial assistance in 1986 from an Environmental Quality Bond Act grant.

MacKerchar says the village is providing documents to state parks officials for the alienation of parkland process that is required to convert municipal parkland to private property. 

It is expected that the state legislation to enable the transaction will be voted on in the upcoming session of the assembly and senate.