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Rock Springs Business Park issued certificate of completion by state EPA

Clean bill of health for former TS&T site

The Rock Springs Business Park in Chester, located at the former site of the Taylor, Smith and Taylor pottery factory, has been declared clean of contaminants by the state Department of Environmental Protection following seven years of cleanup effort by the property’s owner, the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle. (Submitted photo)

CHESTER — Following almost seven years of work, the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle has reached a milestone with its first major development project.

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection has issued a certificate of completion to the BDC for the Rock Springs Business Park, formerly the site of the Taylor, Smith and Taylor pottery factory in Chester.

The certificate of completion, issued May 25, validates the site now is clear of contamination and better suited for future redevelopment.

The BDC purchased the former pottery property in July 2011, demolishing much of the factory, rehabilitating the soil and recently constructing a building suited for potential tenants. It was the economic development agency’s first major project in the area.

“We got all of our scars on this one,” BDC Executive Director Patrick Ford said, noting each lesson learned on the project has been emulated on every other brownfield project the agency has undertaken.

Brownfields are former industrial or commercial sites where future use can be affected either by real or perceived environmental contamination.

Private banks and investors typically do not get involved in financing contaminated properties because of the high potential risk, Ford explained. Those who do work to clean up such a site have to perform their due diligence to know what risks exist before moving forward. They also should be willing to enroll in West Virginia’s Voluntary Remediation Program, which is run by the DEP and monitors cleanup efforts, Ford added.

There are 70 projects currently in the VRP and each project is limited in how much funding it can receive each year from various sources, meaning economic development groups often have to look to multiple funding opportunities.

“The average brownfield property requires 14 funding streams to clean up,” Ford said.

For the Rock Springs Business Park, the BDC tapped into 19 funding streams from seven sources — much of it grant programs — including the Benedum Foundation, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the West Virginia Economic Development Administration, the West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center, the West Virginia Community HUB program, the Hancock County Commission and its own coffers.

Having the certificate of completion, Ford said, can open the door for private investment for the site. It also creates a covenant preventing any future legal claims against the BDC pertaining to previously existing contamination.

Completing the cleanup of this site, as well as continuing efforts at brownfield sites in Beech Bottom, Follansbee, Wellsburg and Weirton, Ford said he sees the area becoming more attractive for potential development opportunities related to the energy, chemical and value-added metals industries.

“We’re getting these cleaned up in time to absorb the demand,” Ford said.

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