A $300,000 grant to identify and perhaps remedy "brownfields" in Uptown Martinsville is on its way from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The EPA announced Thursday $3.4 million in grants to support seven brownfields projects in Virginia, including one for the city of Martinsville.
“Excellent” is how Wayne Knox, assistant city manager and director of community development, reacted to the announcement. “It’s what’s necessary as we continue to reinvent ourselves to clean up property that can be better used in today’s economy.”
Brownfields are property, either in use or vacant, for which expansion and redevelopment might be hampered by the presence of hazardous pollutants or contaminants. The programs sponsored by the EPA are created to identify and remedy such problems.
The city'ss website said brownfields typically are abandoned and underused commercial and industrial sites in urban areas. The EPA lists as examples warehouses, gas stations, machine shops and dry cleaning facilities. But brownfields could include residential neighborhoods built on property where hazardous substances might have existed.
Knox said assessment activities would focus on "several priority sites in the Uptown Martinsville neighborhood: the Rives Theater, Chief Tassel Building, the Sara Lee Apparel plant.
"These funds will also be used to … develop redevelopment plans for selected sites, develop a GIS-based [geographic information system] brownfields site inventory and database, prioritize sites, and conduct community outreach activities.”
He said this continues work that has taken place during the past few years, involving "the former R.P. Thomas site across from the Paradise Inn, V.M Draper site on West Church Street, former gas station on South Memorial Boulevard, next to the Salvation Army, and of course, the former American Furniture site on Aaron Street."
"These funds will not be available to be utilized until October of this year,” Knox said.
“The Brownfields Program assists local communities in cleaning up and redeveloping former industrial and commercial sites in preparation for new economic endeavors," U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Abingdon) said in a release. "This $300,000 brownfields grant will help the city of Martinsville assess such locations in the area and plan for their recovery and reuse. These funds are a valuable aid to environmental restoration and economic growth in Martinsville.”
Griffith’s statement also said that, according to the EPA, the assessment grant includes $120,000 for petroleum-based issues and $180,000 for hazardous substances.
Knox said the $300,000 will be "used to conduct environmental site assessments, known as phase I and phase II.”
Phase I is a basic study of possible contamination at a site and is limited to collecting information about past and present site use and observing present conditions.
A Phase II would take and analyze samples of areas suspected of being contaminated.
Phase III would measure contamination and develop plans to clean up the site.
The EPA also awarded the city of Danville $300,000 to conduct site assessments in the Schoolfield area and the River District, "to update the White Mill, Schoolfield and Riverfront Park redevelopment plans; prepare a Long Mill redevelopment concept; develop a community involvement plan; and conduct community outreach activities.”
The town of Bluefield in Mercer County will receive $600,000 to conduct environmental site assessments on properties in both Virginia and West Virginia. Richmond will receive $600,000 to conduct environmental site assessments that focus on the Southside and Northside areas. The town of Vinton in Roanoke County and the city of Williamsburg also received grants.