WEIRTON – Projects expected in several area communities are among those up for $3.2 million in grant requests recently submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Among those requests, up to $1.4 million in grants could be awarded to Hancock and Brooke counties, if approved. Eleven applications were submitted by the Northern West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center as part of the EPA's Assessment and Clean-up Grant program. “These 11 brownfields applications will compete nationally for funding that is essential to address environmental concerns which are an impediment to economic development on key sites in a variety communities throughout West Virginia,” said NBAC Executive Director Patrick Kirby. The funding would be used for assessment and cleanup activities of the sites, including remediation activities on brownfields. If approved, West Virginia's grant applications will go toward projects in Chester, Newell, New Cumberland, Weirton, Wellsburg, Beech Bottom, Vienna, Fairmont, Martinsburg, and Huntington. In addition, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection applied for an assessment grant for communities statewide and Fayette County applied for an assessment grant for communities in Fayette County exclusively. According to Kirby, the EPA grant applications take months, and substantial community involvement to complete. “$1.4 million of the $3.2 million in grant funding requested will directly benefit six communities in Brooke and Hancock counties,” said Patrick Ford, executive director of the Business Development Corporation of the Northern Panhandle. “In total there were seven assessment grant applications and four clean-up grant applications. Two of the seven assessments and three of the four clean-up grant applications were from Brooke and Hancock counties.” Bill D'Alesio, chairman of the board of the BDC, said “communities across West Virginia are working incredibly hard to redevelop strategic sites to create jobs and remove blight. In particular, the grants we (Brooke and Hancock counties) applied for would fund the cleanup of BDC-owned properties in Beech Bottom, Wellsburg and Chester, and assess privately held properties in Weirton, Wellsburg, New Cumberland and Newell.” Ford noted the environmental concerns with the sites – both local and statewide – are directly related to plans for the reuse of the targeted properties. “It is the BDC's desire to redevelop these sites to create available land for businesses and industries to want to locate in our region,” Ford said. “However, since these sites have buildings that are aging and contain asbestos materials, lead-based paints, and other hazardous substances, it is imperative that we acquire, assess, and cleanup these properties for future businesses to move into our area.” The first two development projects the BDC has undertaken to assess, cleanup, and redevelop are the former Wheeling Corrugating Plant in Beech Bottom and the former Taylor, Smith & Taylor Pottery site in Chester. To date, the BDC has leveraged a total $57 of public and private investment for every $1 invested by the BDC. In actual dollars, the BDC has spent approximately $258,000 to acquire two properties while attracting approximately $14,000,000 to improve these same two properties.
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