BDC recognized for work in Chester

The Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle, along with the Hancock County Commission and the City of Chester, were recognized during the 2018 West Virginia Brownfields Conference with the Environmental Impact award in recognition of efforts to redevelop the former Taylor, Smith and Taylor pottery property. Pictured receiving the award are, from left County Commissioners Paul R. Cowey III and Jeff Davis, BDC Assistant Director Marvin Six, Commission Joe Barnabei and Chester Mayor Rex Cowey. -- Contributed

CHARLESTON — The Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle, and some of its partners, were recognized with the award for the top brownfield redevelopment project in the state Friday during the 2018 West Virginia Brownfields Conference.

The BDC, the Hancock County Commission and the City of Chester were presented with the Environmental Impact Award, in recognition of the efforts to clean up and redevelop the former Taylor, Smith and Taylor pottery site, now known as the Rock Springs Business Park, in Chester.

The award, presented by the West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center, recognizes a project, organization or community that has made a significant impact on the cleanup of environmental hazards through a single or multiple projects.

“The award, and the efforts that made it possible, are significant on many levels,” said BDC Board Chair C. William D’Alesio. “There have been years of work, behind the scenes, with the Hancock County Commission, residents of Chester, USEPA, WVDEP, and WVEDA officials that have made it possible for the BDC to acquire, remediate, and develop this former factory site.”

A brownfield is a property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.

“From a professional basis, this is what we do in the background to make these projects happen,” explained BDC Executive Director Patrick Ford. “Everyone focuses on the public side of things, the up-front things that you see. But when you develop a project on a brownfield, you work with funders, regulatory agencies, consultants, remediation specialists, and contractors to satisfy all the regulatory and construction issues necessary to redevelop the site.”

The Taylor, Smith & Taylor Co. was in operation from 1900 until 1981. The site was used as a barge cleaning operation in the mid-80s and early 90s. With the closure of the barge cleaning operation, the abandoned structures on the 9-acre site fell into disrepair. Redevelopment attempts were thwarted, officials said, due to the underlying soil contamination, including lead from the deteriorated ceramic debris, asbestos issues and half demolished buildings.

“With strong encouragement of the Hancock County Commission, nearby residents, and the Brooke Hancock Regional Council, the BDC decided to acquire the site and tackle the challenge of repurposing the site,” said Patrick Kirby, executive director of the West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center. “The BDC’s investments over the past six years have included over $3.1 million dollars in assessments, clean-up, and new construction.”

Hancock County Commission President and BDC Board Member Jeff Davis, appearing at the award ceremony, said the clean-up of this waterfront site was 30 years in the making.

“It is the epitome of collaboration and persistence with positive environmental impacts directly impacting the quality of life for hundreds of residents and school children that live, work or play adjacent to the site,” Davis said.