Funds allocated for property

Published 10:16 am Friday, August 13, 2010

Contributing Editor

In an effort to be safe rather than sorry, Washington’s City Council allocated $6,500 for an environmental assessment of a piece of property it wants to buy.
The appropriation was made during the council’s meeting Monday. At the same meeting, the council appropriated $115,000 to buy a piece of property at the corner of Bridge and West Second streets in order to accommodate a future expansion of the city-owned Brown Library. The property at 131 Bridge St., once known as Pamlico Auto Center, is owned by Floyd Banks.
The council debated whether an environmental assessment may be needed, but it decided it would be a prudent move to allocate money for the assessment considering the property once housed a service station and pollutants in the form of petroleum hydrocarbons may be present at the property, most likely underground.
Councilman Doug Mercer said he believes the state has no official record of underground storage tanks at the property.
He also said it’s likely an analysis of the property could indicate the presence of petroleum hydrocarbons there, which could require an cleanup of those hydrocarbons.
“Apparently, they weren’t registered,” Mercer said in a brief interview Thursday.
A memorandum from City Manager James C. Smith to the mayor and council explains the situation.
“Inasmuch as there was one a service station located on the site we requested the City Attorney’s office review any files at the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources … regarding the property,” wrote City Manager James C. Smith in a memorandum to the mayor and council.
The department’s Underground Storage Tanks Division provided the city documents regarding previous environmental testing and sampling at the property, the memorandum states.
“The laboratory report submitted showed ‘a very low-level of the total petroleum hydrocarbons.’ It appears that most of the samples were obtained from the boundaries of the property as concrete pavement of an old foundation was encountered preventing the taking of samples from certain areas,” the memorandum reads.
The memorandum indicates that St. Clair Trucking removed fuel storage tanks from the property May 15, 1995.
“The executed terms of our offer to purchase the property include a provision that the City may elect to have an environmental assessment performed. The City has until August 30 to make a selection and notify Mr. Banks accordingly. … If the City Council decides not to proceed with an environmental assessment we should require the current owner to execute a proper indemnification agreement with the City should any environmental issues arise in the future and also consider obtaining environmental contamination insurance,” reads the memorandum.