Crews began to remove contaminated soil from a section of the Erie Canal that runs through the city earlier this week.

New York State Electric and Gas Corp., which has contracted the job, is helming the excavation of at least 800 cubic yards of material from the canal near its LaGrange Street electrical substation.

Work is expected to last until April, according to Kevin Ortiz, a spokesman with NYSEG. The job is being overseen by the state Department of Environmental Conservation, which ordered the work as part of an effort to address areas where manufactured gas plants once operated. Ortiz did not name the company that was hired to perform the work. 

Maureen Wren, a DEC spokeswoman, said equipment was staged at the site last month.

"NYSEG has set up on-site operations, including the sediment staging pad, water treatment system, and a recently installed temporary dam structure in the Barge Canal," she said. "The dam will divert water around the excavation work area and help keep that area dry."

An area of the canal bed is exposed along the bank. Soil that has mixed with coal tar, a carcinogenic compound used at the substation site between the 1850s and 1927, is to be removed. The area housed a manufactured gas plant that burned coal and petroleum products to provide fuel for homes and businesses.

DEC conducted two site investigations between 1983 and 2004, concluding that residual coal tar had settled in the soil and bedrock, then migrated north from the site toward Genesee Street and the Erie Canal. Tar seeps were documented in cracks on the canal wall east of Tri-Way Bridge when the canal was dewatered.

As part of the project, the house at 36 S. Transit St. will be demolished. Ortiz said the building will be likely be razed in April, once a permit is obtained and utilities are cut off.

"Once the house is demolished, we would conduct additional testing of the soil on the parcel and begin any necessary additional remediation in early June and be completed within about two months," he said.