National Grid informing public on NY manufactured gas plant cleanup

Fresno MGP plant
Image credit PGE.

Manufactured gas was how Americans heated and lit their homes and businesses through much of the 19th and early 20th century. A New York utility is working on a project to clean up one of those sites which was closed 72 years ago.

National Grid U.S. will hold a public meeting next week to detail its remedial efforts for the former manufactured gas plant (MGP) in the city of Cohoes. The plant, owned by National Grid, operated from 1852 until 1949.

“From the 1860s until approximately 1950 there were many manufactured gas plants across New York State providing municipal gas for heating, lighting and other usage,” said National Grid Environmental Manager Steven Stucker. “Since 1992, National Grid has worked with the State to remediate these sites to protect human health and the environment and to restore these properties to their highest and best land use.”

National Grid is working under the direction of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. MGPs, such as Cohoes, go through an investigatory, clean-up and post-remediation monitoring program.

The gas manufacturing process during the previous two centuries involved the heating of coal and/or petroleum products to produce a gas mixture. Once cooled and purified, the gas was distributed through a local pipeline network for heating and cooking much like natural gas is used today, National Grid noted.

The gas provided lighting in the years prior to the invention of electricity. It produced a byproduct known as coal tar which impacted soils and groundwater.

National Grid and its project contractor will stabilize contamination and replace some soil at the site. The public meeting to discuss MGP remediation will be August 31 at the Cohoes Senior Center.

The manufactured gas process first dates back to the 18th century in France. Hundreds of MGPs were built and operated in the U.S., such as the one pictured in California, although the process eventually was knocked low in the market by natural gas distribution and electricity.

Some are reconsidering the process through coal gasification.

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