Archived Story

Former tile plant property ready for redevelopment

Published 9:48am Friday, June 22, 2012



COAL GROVE — More than 6,700 tons of contaminated soil were removed from the former Carlyle Tile Plant property in Coal Grove since cleanup efforts began in 2006.

About 700 cubic yards of asbestos-containing materials were removed from buildings on the site before demolition of the structures.

Now, six years later, Ohio EPA says the 33-acre property on Pike Street is officially ready for redevelopment.

Through the EPA’s Voluntary Action Program, the Village of Coal Grove hired a certified environmental professional to assess the site, identify any areas of concern and remediate any contamination on the property to a level that allows for commercial and industrial redevelopment and unrestricted ground water use. The village received $750,000 in Clean Ohio grants in 2006 to remediate the property and demolish structures at the site.

“We applaud the (Coal Grove) mayor and council for getting involved in this,” said Dr. Bill Dingus, director of the Lawrence Economic Development Corp.

Dingus said that since river frontage sites are in low supply, the piece of land that was once an “eyesore at our front door when people came across the Ashland Bridge” is “extremely valuable” for the county.

The land is also valuable, Dingus said, because of the EPA’s covenant not to sue.

A covenant not to sue protects the property’s owners or operators and future owners from being legally responsible to the State of Ohio for further environmental investigation and remediation.

McGinnis Inc., owns the land and the company’s president, Rick Griffith, said there have been talks in the past few years on how to develop the area, but nothing has materialized.

“There is a lot of stuff I’d like to see there,” Griffith said, noting bad economic times have made it difficult to develop the land.

“We’ve talked to some people about a biodiesel plant, but that’s probably not going to happen,” he said. “Other than that, we haven’t really talked to anybody recently.”

Dingus said business manufacturing that would depend on river or rail transportation would fit well on the property. Logistics would also bring high-paying jobs to the county, which is the LEDC’s goal, Dingus said.

“Our success only comes when we bring jobs to Lawrence County,” he said.

A stamp of approval from the EPA may also spark interest in the property, Dingus noted.

“Until you get the official stamped report from the EPA, everyone is always cautious in aggressively marketing something,” Dingus said.

Concrete floors were also left behind after demolition, which would be a “significant savings for new businesses,” Dingus said.

The former tile plant manufactured bricks on the site from the late 1800s through 1935. Between 1935 and 1978, the property was used by the company to manufacture quarry tile. In the early 1980s, a coal-loading facility was located on a portion of the property, followed by an asphalt plant from 1989-1992.

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  • Poor Richard

    Mark, I entirely agree that the VAP program is an easy way for polluting industry to get by with little clean-up investment (since issue one funds are used). The Phase I’s prepared by the certified VAP companies are a joke, as is their Phase II’s. Convenants, as we all know, are meaningless if in the future their is a newly found release or risk posed to humans or the environment on the property – the EPA will still step in. The convenant may protect from a law suit but I bet it will not protect from future unknown liabilities or clean-ups.

    We will all be paying for this ‘drive thru’ clean-ups in the future.

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  • Mark Chesler

    …In a June 26, 1994, Cleveland Plain Dealer article entitled Environmentalists Leery of Possible Loopholes, Chris Trepal, co-director of the Earth Day Coalition in Northeast Ohio, lambasted the enabling VAP legislation as “one of the poorest public policy measures I’ve ever seen.” A clairvoyant Richard Sahli, executive director of the Ohio Environmental Council, echoed his sentiment in the May 26, 1994, Cincinnati Post, “We do predict there will be a lot of shoddy cleanups under this bill the state will never catch.” Testifying before the House Energy & Natural Resources Committee on behalf of the Ohio Academy of Trial Lawyers, Cincinnati environmental lawyer David Altman asserted, “This bill is a definite bait-and-switch. What it is supposed to do and what it does is two different things.”

    A seminal, 152 page 2001 Gund Foundation funded study by the Green Environmental Council confirmed the critics’ predictions. A dearth of agency resources to provide meaningful regulatory oversight combined with the lack of a credible, established enforcement mechanism has rendered the feckless, industry aligned program toothless. “It’s a broken program – it doesn’t work,” declared the council’s Bruce Cornett in an interview with the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Both the Sierra Club and Ohio Citizen Action opposed the 2000 $400 million Clean Ohio state bond issue out of concern the fungible proceeds could be utilized to prop up the lame Voluntary Action Program and create a trojan horse polluters slush fund. “This is the governor’s attempt to whitewash his EPA,” charged Jane Forrest Redfern, environmental projects director for Ohio Citizen Action in a November 1, 2000, Cleveland Plain Dealer article. Dedicated professionals, veteran Ohio EPA bureaucrats attempted to rectify the problem. According to the October 4, 2000, Cleveland Plain Dealer, “EPA staffers who shared some of the environmentalists’ concerns, at one point launched a quiet but unsuccessful campaign to disband the program.”

    For six years after the Voluntary Action Program’s 1996 implementation, the U.S. EPA refused to extend program participants federal immunity and threatened to decertify the Ohio EPA due to the VAP’s expansive, inhibiting secrecy provisions and tangible lack of transparency. In a brokered, bifurcated modification to the Ohio VAP that “frankly doesn’t make sense at all,” according to Ohio Public Interest Research Group director Amy Simpson (Akron Beacon Journal, February 24, 2001), an alternative “memorandum of agreement” VAP track with enhanced public access was crafted. Companies that elect the original, opaque, “classic” option, which conceals under an embargo the extent and nature of contamination, will not be afforded U.S. EPA liability insulation. “Why Ohio would want a two-headed monster is beyond me,” quipped the Ohio Environmental Council’s Jack Shaner. In SCA’s case, the jaundiced, green and incompliant wants to hide what you can’t see.

    Mark Chesler
    Oberlin, Ohio

    (Report comment)

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