U.S. 522 soccer fields still being studied for cleanup
by Jazz Clark
Work continues on surveying the county-owned soccer fields off U.S. 522 by Northern West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center who reported progress at a public meeting on June 11.
The State Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which funded the entire first phase of the project, has allocated an additional $45,000 for Phase II.
The goal of the project is ultimately to create a clean and safe place for soccer fields, tennis courts, fairgrounds or anything else Morgan County may need. Planning, however, is still in the middle stages, according to Project Manager Luke Elser.
“Phase one was basically the history research where contractors interview neighbors and look for anything suspicious on the site,” said Elser.
After the initial testing, documentation was found which gives a clearer picture of petroleum tanks buried in the ground.
“We found state paperwork, and it didn’t tell the whole story. There was some stuff missing.” Elser said. “Basically what we know is there were five tanks buried there and we think three were removed. Now we know what the status is.”
Since they now know where the contamination is, the second phase will be to follow-up on what they learned.
“Contractors will be taking possibly hundreds of soil samples from all over the site to give a clearer picture of what’s there,” Elser said.
Just for this site, ground-penetrating sonar machines will be used to figure out where underground contaminants might be.
The DEP should have Phase II completed by the fall so that the $200,000 federal clean-up grant can be applied for in late October.
“We don’t know how much contamination is in the soil, and that can change both the timeline and the price, “ Elser said.
Right now, all work is concerned with the 10 acres on the east side of the highway, as there was no evidence of contamination on the other 16 acres.
Another vital aspect of the project is Brownfield’s Decision Enhancer tool. This spreadsheet document has a variety of questions to determine what is needed in the community.
After answering about 120 questions on everything from flood plains to ecology, a one-page summary is produced which tells about development opportunity. A score is also determined, between -40 and +40 on how easy the land will be to develop on.
“We need help figuring out what we’re going to put out there,” said Commissioner Brad Close. “We’re here to make this into what Morgan County needs, and that’s part of a team effort.”
Sections of the questionnaire have been delegated to attendees of the meeting, such as representatives of Parks & Recreation and Economic Development.
Northern West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center is certain that assessment and cleanup are the most difficult part of the project.
“We often have an easier time finding money to build something new. Everyone wants to build a park, very few want to tear down an old building,” Elser said.
The next meeting of the recreation task force will be Thursday, July 19 at 6 p.m.