US EPA awards $600,000 to assess, re-purpose brownfield sites in Brooke, Hancock counties of WV

A West Virginia-Ohio development coalition has received a hard-to-get competitive 2016 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Brownfields Coalition Assessment Grant.The Business Development Corporation of the Northern Panhandle and Jefferson County (Ohio) Port Authority will use the $600,000 grant to assess and eventually repurpose brownfield sites in Newell, New Cumberland, Weirton and Wellsburg in West Virginia, and Wellsburg will be targeted on the West Virginia side, along with Steubenville in Ohio.“This U.S. EPA grant is critically important in removing barriers to re-purposing and job growth in a region that is already strong on economic development fundamentals, such as industry diversification, transportation, and a trained labor force,” BDC Board Chair William D’Alesio said in a release announcing the funding. “Eradicating contaminants on brownfield sites will increase the fiscal stability of our communities by allowing vacant properties to again contribute to the tax base. It will also help improve the health of residents by cleaning up our environment. This effort demonstrates the strength our three counties and two states can have when we work together toward a common goal — jobs.”Jefferson County Port Authority Chair Deborah Venci said they're pleased to be part of the project.“Repurposing our underutilized land assets is a top priority of our coalition,” Venci said. “Not only are these sites eventually remediated and redeveloped for the creation of jobs, but environmental justice is served by eliminating detrimental health effects for our communities and their residents.”The BDC and Port Authority have identified at least 6 vacant, abandoned, or underused sites in the six communities. The EPA grant will help fund an environmental assessment of the sites, focusing on contamination stemming from petroleum and other hazardous materials. The funding is distributed through the EPA Brownfields Program which cleans up and reinvests in sites that are contaminated — or are thought to be contaminated — and have limited redevelopment potential because of potential liability.The BDC also received USEPA Clean-up Grants for the former Jimmy Carey Stadium in Weirton ($52,500) and The Lodge at the Williams ($106,000). BDC Executive Director Patrick Ford has said he's hopeful the grant funds “will kick start the re-purposing of the former Jimmy Carey Stadium and the historic community landmark The Lodge at the Williams Golf and Country Club.” “Our assessment projects have led to major clean-ups, repurposing, and job creation at sites such as: Rock Springs Business Park (Chester), Chrysler Dealership (Newell), Three Springs Business Park (Weirton), and the Beech Bottom Industrial Park (Beech Bottom),” he said. “Strategically-based attention, with the use of these grants, make it possible to assess, remediate, repurpose, attract investment, and create jobs for our community.”.Ford added that these grants, totaling $758,500, would not have been possible without the support, draft writing, and data gathering assistance of BDC's partners, including U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-WV, the Brooke-Hancock-Jefferson Planning Commission, the Northern West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center, the Jefferson County Port Authority, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, the Benedum Foundation, the board and staff of the BDC, and many other community organizations and volunteers.