By Stephen Smoot
The Harrison County Economic Development Corporation announced late last week that they had received half a million in federal funds for a community wide brownfields assessment. Eleven different local and regional government agencies received grants totalling almost $11 million across the state.
“Our goal is to develop a complete assessment of the Brownfield sites within Harrison County as a database. These sites will be prioritized and act as a catalyst for reuse” said Amy Haberbosch Wilson, executive director of HEDC, in a news release. “The initial target areas will identify sites within the County, and properties in and around the City of Clarksburg for reuse.”
Moving forward, the HEDC will work with public and private partners to determine the best path forward for safely and effectively developing these properties.
The brownfields program, established with the US Environmental Protection Agency under the Clinton Administration, seeks to clean up former industrial properties found to have contamination in the soil and elsewhere. According to the West Virginia University Technical Assistance to Brownfield Communities webpage, brownfields are properties “the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.”
Due to the prevalence of unsafe building materials, such as asbestos and lead paint prior to 1978, any industrial structure predating that could be a brownfield. Over 450,000 estimated brownfields hinder development of businesses, green space, or other potential uses.
US Senator Joe Manchin supported the effort, funded by what he called the “bipartisan infrastructure law.” He stated that “Addressing and restoring brownfield sites across West Virginia is vital to strengthening our communities and boosting economic development,” Senator Manchin said. “Our Bipartisan Infrastructure Law continues to deliver critical investments for West Virginia, and I am pleased the EPA is investing in these ten important programs.
Both US Senators worked to bring these funds to brownfield development. “In almost every corner of our state, brownfield sites present potential opportunities for economic growth and expansion,” said US Senator Shelley Moore Capito, the ranking member of the relevant committee.
She added in her news release that “When crafting the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, I helped prioritize funding to deliver needed resources to the EPA’s Brownfields Program that would benefit communities in West Virginia.”
According to a HEDC release, “once a site has been selected for the program, EPA Brownfields grant funds for Phase I and Phase II Environmental Site Assessments can be accessed. Grant funds can also be used for lead-based paint and asbestos material surveys, mold studies, national historic preservation act applicability, and certain types of planning activities.”