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EPA talks brownfield redevelopment in Tyler County

Janet McCabe, left, a deputy administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, speaks in Paden City on Wednesday about brownfield cleanup at the old Corning Glass Works. She was accompanied by Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Adam Ortiz, right, on several stops in Northern West Virginia. (Photo Provided)

PADEN CITY — Clean-up projects in several West Virginia counties including Tyler were among the abandoned sites visited this week by two officials of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

EPA Deputy Administrator Janet McCabe and Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Adam Ortiz were in Paden City and Morgantown to tour sites and talk with representatives of the community and stakeholders. McCabe and Ortiz also met with biologists from the EPA Wheeling office taking water samples in Bethany Creek and reviewing progress of ongoing projects to improve the stream’s quality for recreational use.

McCabe and Ortiz visited formerly abandoned sites in West Virginia counties in northeastern West Virginia that are undergoing cleanup or have now been revitalized through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

After the field trip to Ohio and Marshall Counties, the party drove to Paden City to visit the old Corning Glass Works property and met with city councilmen, the Paden City Development Authority and representatives from West Virginia University Brownfields Assistance Center and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection.

The development authority purchased the property in 1999 after the Corning Glass factory closed in 1991. It is undergoing a cleanup funded by a $500,000 Brownfields Cleanup grant announced in May 2021.

In May 2022, EPA also selected the development authority for a $500,000 Bipartisan Infrastructure-funded Brownfields Assessment Grant to conduct several environmental site assessments, develop a reuse plan and to conduct activities for community involvement at the 8.6-acre Paden City Industrial Park. The loss of major local employers in the glass industry has impacted Paden City, leading to a population decline of nearly 40% since 1991 and leaving the city’s waterfront lined with industrial skeletons and environmental justice challenges.

Utilizing these EPA grants, the development authority’s goal is to revitalize abandoned properties and create jobs.

“President (Joe) Biden has recognized the importance of EPA’s Brownfields program to help build back our country’s economy with major investments in Brownfields cleanup,” McCabe said. “The Administration’s fiscal year 2023 budget proposal as well as historic $254.5 million investment through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to revitalize communities across the country is having a direct impact on revitalizing communities like Paden City.”

Previous EPA Brownfields funding included a $65,000 Targeted Brownfields Assessment to assess and prepare the site for clean-up and a $36,000 Technical Assistance grant in 2021 to prepare workforce skills and availability assessment intended to create jobs in uses such as light manufacturing, office or small business incubator space.

“EPA’s Brownfields Program empowers states, as well as non-profits and other stakeholders to work together in assessing, safely cleaning up, and sustainably redeveloping Brownfields sites into productive use,” Ortiz said. “All this work that we do together helps to transform these contaminated sites into community assets that will attract jobs and achieve broader economic development.”

The brownfields program has invested $41 million in 43 communities throughout West Virginia since 1997, leveraging more than $1.6 billion from other sources toward economic recovery efforts and creating 5,400 jobs.

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