Federal grant awarded for Brooke Glass assessment

WELLSBURG – Efforts to rehabilitate the former Brooke Glass site for future development have received a major boost through the award of a $77,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle has announced.

BDC Executive Director Pat Ford said the grant through the EPA’s Targeted Brownfield Assessment program will fund a physical investigation of any substances that may be in the building or ground, including core samples.

TechLaw Inc., a Wheeling-based environmental assessment firm under contract to the EPA, will conduct the investigation.

Ford said he hopes the assessment can be completed in late summer or early fall so the BDC may apply for funds for a cleanup.

The Northern West Virginia Brownfield Assistance Center has announced it will hold a second meeting to accept suggestions for the site’s future development at 6 p.m. July 10 at the Salvation Army Service Center at the corner of Commerce (state Route 2) and Fourth streets.

The grant marks the fifth site owned by the BDC to receive financial and technical assistance from the EPA. The others include the Wheeling Corrugating Plant in Beech Bottom, former Taylor, Smith & Taylor pottery factory in Chester, former Newell Memorial Stadium and former Jimmy Carey Stadium in Weirton.

A brownfield is defined by the EPA as a property where development is complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.

Brownfields can include former glass and pottery factories, abandoned steel mills and closed gas stations.

The rehabilitation of such sites has been a goal of both the BDC and Brooke-Hancock Regional Planning and Development Council, the economic development arm of the Brooke-Hancock-Jefferson Metropolitan Planning Commission, which also has secured funds for their assessment and cleanup.

BDC Chairman Bill D’Alesio, said, “The Brooke Hancock Regional Council just spent down their last assessment grant dollars last year, which were of great use to the BDC, so this (EPA grant) is welcome news to continue our efforts to redevelop brownfields in the panhandle. Because we’ve had access to USEPA assistance over the past three years, it’s led to assessment, remediation and cleanup of projects, so having assistance available that could lead to redevelopment, is key.”

Ford said because there’s growing competition for the EPA funds, the most recent grant wouldn’t have been possible had the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection not named the Brooke Glass site a priority.

Patricia Hickman, interim director of the WVDEP, said the state agency is among several entities with an interest in revitalizing the property.

In addition to the groups cited earlier, they include the City of Wellsburg and its urban redevelopment authority, Brooke County Commission, Brooke-Hancock Brownfields Task Force.

Brooke County Commissioner Tim Ennis said, “Funding provided by EPA’s brownfields program is an important asset for local communities working to get underutilized and blighted properties assessed, cleaned up and back into productive use.”

The BDC and Brooke-Hancock Regional Council also have secured funds through the Claude W. Benedum Foundation for the assessment of several brownfields in Hancock and Brooke counties.

Earlier this month the BDC announced plans to use $12,500 from the Benedum Foundation to acquire estimates for the building’s demolition, remediation of hazardous material there, preparation of the site and security.

Ford said additional funds from the foundation may be used to provide a 40 percent local match required for a $200,000 EPA grant the BDC hopes to secure for cleanup efforts at Brooke Glass.

Built in 1879, the factory was operated by four companies, producing various types of glass before it closed its doors in 2004.