City seeks funds to address brownfield sites

Published 7:32 pm Friday, August 26, 2016

Washington will seek funding to help pay for a brownfields program, without the city having to provide a “matching” contribution, according to information provided to city officials.

During its meeting Monday, the City Council authorized city staff to work with Mid-Atlantic Associates Inc. to seek the money from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. A brownfield site is any land in the United States contaminated with hazardous waste and identified by the EPA as a candidate for cleanup because it poses a threat to human health or the environment. Brownfield sites are not necessarily abandoned industrial sites where chemical, heavy metals and other contaminants may be located. Some brownfield sites are abandoned buildings in downtowns that could contain asbestos, lead-based paints and other pollutants.

Mid-Atlantic Associates spokesman Darin McClure told the council the city may seek funding for assessments, planning and cleanup projects. At first, the city will seek a $400,000 grant for an assessment project. The grant, if awarded, would start in October 2017, with the grant having a life of three years, according to McClure.

“Our role in this would be, if we’re contracted, to help the city obtain these funds, implement these funds and manage this funds,” McClure said. “I guess the question I’ve got for everybody before I go on with this (speaking) is if we can bring, if Washington can bring in, three-quarters of a million dollars at no cost to the city to help put some of your vacant or abandoned properties back in use, would you go for it?”

The money could be used by the city or a private developer to clean up brownfield sites, McClure said.

Mid-Atlantic Associates provided brownfields assessment and remediation services for the Golden Belt project in Durham, in which a former textile mill was converted into a mix of artists’ studios, live/work loft apartments, restaurants, live music venues and retail shops. The company also worked with the Town of Williamston to covert industrial sites, wetlands and vacant lands on the Roanoke River into the Williamston Waterfront Redevelopment District, which includes park area and land for redevelopment uses.

City Manager Bobby Roberson and Mayor Mac Hodges called the opportunity to apply for EPA funding a great opportunity and an excellent way to address brownfield issues in the city. Among possible brownfield sites in the city are the idX/Impressions site (the former Hamilton Beach/Proctor Silex site) on Springs Road, a former agricultural supply business on West Third Street, the former Dr Pepper bottling plant on West Third Street and the Hotel Louise in downtown Washington.

The former Dr Pepper site previously housed a manufactured gas plant. About 10 years ago, Progress Energy and the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources worked together on a project to remove coal-tar deposits — polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons, benzene and toluene — from the site. They also identified other environmental concerns such as underground gasoline and diesel storage tanks.

Approximately 17 years ago, environmental contamination was discovered on the idX/Impressions property.

When the city sold the former Hamilton Beach/Proctor Silex site to idX/Impressions there were some environmental matters addressed in the purchase agreement approved by the city and idX Impressions. The two parties acknowledged that each of them is aware of the presence of hazardous substances in the soil and groundwater on and around the property. The city agreed to take all actions and provide necessary documents needed to help idX/Impressions to apply for and obtain entry into the North Carolina brownfields program.

In 2008, the city wanted to participate in the program, administered by the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, so it could proceed with its plans to sell the property to the Beaufort County Committee of 100. The Committee of 100, as a prospective developer, had submitted an application to participate in the brownfields program, according to a memorandum from then-City Manager James C. Smith to then-Mayor Judy Meier Jennette and the City Council.
That never happened.

The brownfields program helps facilitate redevelopment of contaminated land by alleviating liability for prospective developers, thereby simplifying the process of obtaining loans for redevelopment projects, according to a city memorandum written in 2008.


About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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