Brownfield sites to be assessed for cleanup

VIENNA – Two Ohio-based environmental consultants could begin their work of assessing more than a dozen brownfield sites in Trumbull County for environmental concerns and possible remediation for redevelopment.

The project,which could cost up to $600,000, is being funded by a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant, received as part of a collaboration among the Western Reserve Port Authority, Warren city, Howland Township and Trumbull County.

There is no guarantee, however, of available grant money for actual cleanup of pollution found at the sites that previously housed heavy industry.

Officials plan to meet Monday to determine which sites should be assessed, but an industrial area known as the “Golden Triangle” bordered by North River Road, North Park Avenue and Larchmont Boulevard in Warren and Howland, is expected to be among them.

The Western Reserve Port Authority on Wednesday approved the environmental service agreements with Cleveland-based URS and Massillon-based Brownfield Restoration Group. The companies will work together to provide historical backgrounds of former industrial sites in Trumbull County, identify current and past ownership, along with things such as topography issues like wetlands, rail or highway access and utility availability, before then determining whether asbestos abatement is necessary in existing buildings or if ground sampling for contaminants is necessary.

The process is necessary before the land can be considered as a candidate for cleanup and future redevelopment.

“The coalition is identifying the potential brownfield sites,” said Sarah Lown, Western Reserve Port Authority Senior Manager, who has been heavily involved in the project. “We are aiming for about 35 sites, and of that, we know about 15 and we’re are still looking at additional ones as they arise.”

In addition to the Golden Triangle site, others could include sites in the Mahoning River Corridor.

“We are looking to assess it,” Lown said. “Once you have done that, then you can start applying for other dollars for cleanup.”

But that can be an expensive prospect, and obtaining state cleanup grants can be challenging.

Warren’s Director of Community Development Mike Keys, who also is very involved in the project, said for instance, just the assessment of a brownfield site on the southwest corner of the intersection of South Street and Main Avenue costs about $237,000 in 2010.

Still, Keys said he pushed for the EPA brownfield assessment grant as a first step to redevelop the Golden Triangle area.

“That is a major industrial area and we may be able to make the area a little more attractive,” Keys said. He and Lown noted that rules on statewide funding for cleanup have changed, largely now requiring the commitment of a commercial land user before any cleanup grant is allocated.

Keys said the city’s use of Ohio Department of Development’s Clean Ohio grant funds that helped pay for cleanup of the Mahoningside Power Plant site in the late 1990s and early 2000s may have been one of the state’s final projects funded without the commitment of an end user. The site along Summit Street N.W. remains vacant. Estimates have put the total cleanup of the former power plant site at $6 million. Funding came from state, federal and local sources.

Sarah Boyarko, Regional Chamber vice president of economic development, business retention and expansion, said the assessment and cleanup of former industrial sites may be difficult, but can be successful in the end.

“Any kind of assistance we can get from outside the area is certainly a welcomed addition to the process,” Boyarko said.

While she admits most of the potential businesses she deals with are seeking greenfield, or clean, sites, she said brownfield sites often are marketable, particularly if they have assets like good highway or rail access.

“Even if they don’t ask for them (brownfield site options), we will include them. If it’s not in front of them, they may not think about it,” she said. “It’s just got to be the right user when it comes down to it.”