Brownfield presentation highlights community development funding

LEWISBURG (WVDN) — A presentation on the Region 4 Brownfields Assessment and Remediation Project was given to the Greenbrier County Commission at their Aug. 9 meeting.

Region 4 Project Manager Betsy Morris explained some of the details of this program and what is expected to happen this year.

She said, “We are currently doing the education and inventory phase, and we need to document and show the EPA that we are doing our due diligence and that the need is great in our area.”

Nomination submissions should be made by the second week of September.

This particular grant will cover the identification and listing of properties as well as the assessment of each by Potesta engineers to determine if they are contaminated or polluted.

“The cleanup phase will be much more expensive and will require additional funding to be sought,” Morris said.

Properties don’t have to be in the floodplain, and clusters of multiple properties adjacent to each other will have a big impact on the community if treated by this program, she said. Nomination of properties can be done online by community members or the local government which often owns the derelict properties.

Of course, asbestos is an important pollutant to identify, she said, and abandoned fuel tanks like fuel oil, barrels, tanks and transformers on unoccupied properties are a significant problem.

“A good example of a potential brownfield site is the Pocahontas Tannery,” Morris said of the Marlinton property.

“In three, four or five years, we expect to be able to show great progress,” Morris said.

She also said: “Twenty-five sites are already in the system, but we would like to double that number.”

The Biden administration’s commitment to uplifting and protecting overburdened communities across America spurred this program through the EPA, and in 2021, three properties in Greenbrier County received $300,000: the coal landing from Black Diamond Mining at Sam Black Church, retail Drennen/Grant properties in the former East Rainelle and Mulligan Lumber sawmill at Ronceverte.

A concerted effort to identify properties is required before additional EPA funds can be obtained.

“Remediation will not be covered by this grant,” Morris said. “This grant is for identification and inspection to locate contaminants.”

The online questionnaire is easy to complete with drop-down lists to check property qualifiers. A GIS map will be created from these applications to geographically identify each site, owners, former owners and former uses of the property. This is the first phase called Survey 123 and accessible through https://arcg.is/1m8GuT0.

In phase two, the inspection of each property will be performed by engineers from Potesta in Charleston and they will perform the title search and site assessment to identify contaminants or identify the property as free of contaminants.

Public meetings will be scheduled to encourage area residents to help find these properties. A complete presentation like the one given at the departmental committee meeting which can be requested to be shown to groups and clubs.

The 2022 West Virginia Brownfields Conference will be held at Marshall University in Huntington from September 13-15. Online registration will provide a link to attend virtually as well as in person at www.wvbrownfields.org.

The Region 4 Planning and Development Council is the organization responsible for administering this EPA funding, and its website is https://reg4wv.org.

Norma P. Rex