City, property owners and developers discuss reclaiming brownfield sites

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The city of Morgantown has $200,000 to spend to assess property that could be polluted.

“It simply allows us to work with public or private property owners that have property they may feel has been contaminated,” explained David Bott, Morgantown’s Community Development Administrator.

Thursday, property owners, stakeholders and city leaders will meet throughout the day at the former Woodburn school to discuss the Environmental Protection Agency Brownfield Assessment Grant.

“This isn’t a slap. This isn’t a shackle on you,” Bott clarified. “This is simply a way to work with you if you have an interest in developing the property and want to access these grant fundings.”

According to Bott, the money pays for deed research on sites and then soil testing for property owners where there may be remnants of hazardous substances.

“They may think the ground is contaminated in one way. We do an assessment and find out it’s not as bad as they thought. Or, they may not know and we find something. And, this clears the road for you,” Bott said.

In most cases, before property owners or developers can begin any reinvestment in a site, there must be proof of soil testing and, if needed, eradication of dangerous chemicals from previous businesses.

Bott said the initial grant, the first ever received in Morgantown, must be used to identify Brownfield sites before an application can be made for clean up funds.

The initial $200,000 grant pays for property research and soil testing for up to five sites.

Property along the river front is being considered for testing. But, Bott said, under this grant, assistance will only be available for property owners or developers who have plans for redevelopment or reuse within 2 years.

As community members and developers express interest in property testing and redevelopment, there’s a chance city leaders could ask the EPA for more funds.

“As this thing grows, we may even collaborate with the county or somebody else around the area or other agencies to expand outside the city limits.”

An informational workshop open to the public will be from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the activity center located on Fortney Street.