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TS&T groundbreaking on schedule

CHESTER-Economic development officials say they’re still on track for an April groundbreaking at the old Taylor, Smith & Taylor pottery site now that all environmental requirements have been fulfilled.

Although the TS&T buildings, along with the asbestos, were removed in 2012, it has taken close to four years for the property owner to receive a certificate of completion from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection.

With that certificate in sight, the Business Development Corporation (BDC) of the Northern Panhandle can move forward with its plans for developing the 8.54-acre site.

“This is the challenge of repurposing and building on a brownfield. There’s really nothing you can do to expedite the process,” said BDC Executive Director Patrick Ford.

The BDC retained Civil & Environmental Consultants Inc., of Pittsburgh, to prepare a plan for remediating any remaining contaminants in the soil of the upper pad, where TS&T made pottery for the nation from 1900 to 1981.

That plan now has the approval of the DEP’s Office of Environmental Remediation, Ford said.

“The approval of the plan puts us a few weeks away from obtaining our certification of completion. That is the last step to obtaining construction financing to break ground for phase one of the TS&T Business Park,” he said.

In November 2015, the BDC received a $2 million loan from the West Virginia Economic Development Authority to finance the construction of a 30,800-square-foot building on the property.

Now the BDC needs a bank loan to provide the short-term construction financing. United Bank, of Weirton, has been identified as the bank that the BDC is working with.

The state loan will be used to pay back the bank loan, and the state loan will be paid off over the course of 20 years or sooner, depending on whether the BDC sells the property or leases it.

The BDC has retained General Industries, of Charleroi, Pa., as the general contractor for both the design and construction of the one-story building, which will sit on the TS&T site perpendicular to the Jennings Randolph Bridge and Eighth Street.

How the building develops in terms of offices, utilities, floor plan and other details depends on the tenant. The West Virginia Development Office has been marketing the property and has several prospects that are interested.

Ford said the certificate of completion will smooth the way for the rest of the project. “We want to make sure we make it clear (to prospects) that the environmental liability has been remediated and managed,” he said.

A cap of either soil or concrete currently covers the upper portion of the property, preventing possible exposure to pottery waste containing lead, the DEP said. The concrete is the floor of the old TS&T factory. In the event that the cap is disturbed during construction, the BDC has a plan for disposing of the soil.

A licensed remediation specialist will have to handle any contaminated material, either moving it to another part of the site or having it hauled away to an approved landfill, Ford said.

“Now that you have a building whose foundation will go deeper than the cap, you have to have a soil management plan to say what you will do with the soil that’s below the cap,” he said.

As for the riverbank’s lead contamination, the BDC has a $200,000 cleanup grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that must be used within three years. The BDC expects to advertise for contractor bids in the late summer or early fall.

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