Plattsburgh Manufactured Gas Remediation Project

Plattsburegh Remediation Site

The large white tent along the Saranac River in Plattsburgh is the most obvious part of the remediation project. This article provides some background of the project. 

In the 19th century and well into the 20th, the process of converting coal (and sometimes wood or oil) to a gas enabled the building of pipes for distribution throughout cities which in turn brightened the streets and began revolutions in cooking, lighting, heating, and electricity generation. Unfortunately, the gasification process generated a side product of coal tar which at that time was sometimes used by farmers but more often was just stored in tanks. The gaslight age began to sputter out with the first natural gas well (1821 in Fredonia, New York) which made it possible to extract gas from the ground without the need for a gasification process.

As cities grew and thrived, the old coal tar tanks and dumps remained along with detritus from manufacturing facilities, processing plants, landfills, and mining sites. After a series of articles and public protests of the hazards of these sites, the US Congress established the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA—Superfund). Four such sites in Plattsburgh were identified. Two of them have been remediated (in 1987 and 1991). The site at the former Air Force Base remains active and is a on the national priority list. The Cumberland Bay Sludge Bed site is currently identified by the big white tent in which the excavated soil is temporarily stored. 

The remediation process has proceeded by closing half the river at a time and diverting the water to the other side of the channel. When the sediment has been removed from one side of the river, the proccess is repeated on the other side. The photos in this article are from the work in 2022. The next phase of the remediation will work on the sediment in Lake Champlain at the mouth of the Saranac River.

Friends of Saranac River Trail is planning a guided walk through the remediation site early in Spring 2023. Visit for dates when they announced. If you wish to be notified, send email to; for further information, contact Jesse Feiler at

For further information see the NY DEC site at


Thanks to Michael Flynn at Parsons for photos