11/21/10 — County is looking for land for grant-funded cleanup

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County is looking for land for grant-funded cleanup

By Steve Herring
Published in News on November 21, 2010 1:50 AM

Nine of the 15 people at a Wednesday night meeting to explain and seek public comment on Wayne County's federal brownfields grant were either directly related to the program or associated with the county or Goldsboro city governments.

Sue Farmer, Wayne County facilities director, said she had hoped for a larger turnout at the meeting at the Wayne Center, but was optimistic that the program would attract more attention.

"I hope a little more publicity on our part is going to increase the enthusiasm and get more people involved," she said. "Eastern North Carolina is hesitant at first and (people) tend to want to talk one on one before they get in a group. I hope (those who attended the meeting) will be back and bring their friends and their friends' friends."

Future monthly meetings are in the process of being scheduled, she said.

The county earlier this year received a $400,000 Environmental Protection Agency grant to conduct an assessment study to determine how many abandoned industrial and commercial properties throughout the county could be considered brownfields sites.

The county has three years in which to spend the assessment grant funding.

Those sites are property that cannot be redeveloped or reused because of the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant. Ms. Farmer has said she thinks there are at least 100 such sites in the county.

The grant monies may be used on property, even private property, anywhere in the county, but are for assessment only and not cleanup.

There are two types of assessments, said Dave Duncklee, president of Duncklee and Dunham of Cary, consultants for the county.

"The first task is to inventory the sites," he said.

It also is important to gather public comment and input from people who might be aware of land in the county that could qualify as a brownfields site, he said.

A Phase I assessment relies on maps and historical data to try to determine if the site qualifies. No samples are taken during that phase. During a Phase II assessment, samples are taken and tests conducted for contaminants such as lead, heavy metals, asbestos, petroleum products and other particles, he said.

The first assessments could be under way by early January, Ms. Farmer said.

It is up to the discretion of the grant holder, in this case the county, to select the properties, she said. The results are provided to anyone interested in cleanup and/or development of the property.

Jason Poe of the EPA said that 99 percent of assessed sites do not have severe contamination. Of the remaining sites, only about 30 percent actually require cleanup.

In many cases, the perception of a problem causes uncertainty among property owners and developers, he said. The assessments can remove that uncertainty and clear the way for the land to be sold and redeveloped, Poe said.

Cleanup funds will be sought once the properties are identified.

Those funds cannot be used to clean up private property. They may be used to clean up land owned by county and city governments, non-profit organizations and churches.

However, if developers know that property they are interested in needs to be cleaned up, then they can factor that into their negotiations with the landowner, he said.

County Commissioner Steve Keen, who is also a developer and member of the County Planning Board, asked what could be done to enhance the county's chances of funding. Keen questioned whether having a large volume of properties would help.

Keen is developing property on U.S. 70 west of Goldsboro near a former Department of Transportation facility.

Poe responded that applicants are graded on a point system and that volume would not necessary improve the possibility of being funded.

It is important to follow application guidelines, he said. Also looked upon favorably are properties in areas near certain groups like the elderly or young, or minority populations.

Another important factor is a property's chance of being developed after it is assessed and/or cleaned, he said.

The cleanup money could be set up as a revolving loan or it could come as one lump sum that the county would use to clean up as much property as it can until the funding runs out, she said.

Ms. Farmer said she is confident that the county will receive the clean-up money since it already has the assessment grant.