• 39°

County eyeing Clean Ohio Funds

Lawrence County is dotted with sites that were once bustling centers of commerce and industry. Now, some of those old plants sit idle.

What's worse, some are riddled with

contamination that can not be cleaned up with a couple of mop buckets and elbow grease.

Thursday, local leaders got information on how to get state help to clean up unused or under-used, contaminated industrial sites. In 2000, state voters approved a bond levy that provides $400 million over four years for greenfield and brownfield

projects through the Clean Ohio Funds program. Half would go for greenfield projects -- land used for recreational purposes -- and the rest would go for brownfield rehabilitation.

Christine Osborne, site coordinator for the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, explained that Lawrence County is in a prime position to get help cleaning up its brownfield -- or polluted -- industrial sites because the county is in an economically distressed area of the state.

Local governments and businesses acting in concert with a government entity can get up to $3 million per application to purchase the abandoned or under-used sites, demolish buildings, remove friable asbestos, clean up contamination and engineer future controls on contamination.

The money can not be used for tire removal, handling of underground storage tanks, or removal of solid waste unless it is co-mingled with hazardous waste.

The rules of the program stipulate that the local government must provide a 25 percent match, but that the matching funds must have been spent within two years prior to asking for the state money.

"There's a lot of creative financing you can do with that part of it," Osborne said.

She pointed out that if a local entity had already spent money testing soil at such sites, this could be considered when calculating the local match.

"We could spend the whole $200 million in Lawrence County," Lawrence County Commission President Jason Stephens said.

Stephens asked if there is anything local leaders can do to property owners who live out of the county

"and know its contaminated but have done very little to clean it up."

Osborne replied that such situations involve a lot of issues, but area leaders may want to turn over information about such sites to the EPA and let that agency handle the problem.

"We've never really done that," Stephens said. "But at the same time, it has an impact on our economy because of the environmental problems."

Commissioner George Patterson said the county has never applied before for brownfield monies, but Osborne's information provided a stimulus to change that.

"If we could get those dollars, we could enhance some of these areas for development," Patterson said.

He applauded Bill Dickens, a concerned citizen, for suggesting that Osborne come to Ironton to

discuss Clean Ohio Fund rules and regulations.

Coal Grove Mayor Tom McKnight, who also attended the meeting, said he is interested in getting Clean Ohio Fund monies to clean up the old Ford Brothers property, most recently the Tri-State Tank Cleaning site.

The business closed in 1989 after the EPA determined that safety standards for chemical disposal were not being followed.

McKnight worries what happened there years ago might someday affect the village water supply.

"It's up river from our well fields." McKnight said. "We know that the area was contaminated in the past and we want to clean it up. We're talking about water that goes into people's taps. Right now we have clean water, and I want it to stay that way."

McKnight also expressed an interest in getting brownfield monies to clean up the old Carlyle Tile site at the foot of the Ashland-Coal Grove bridges.

That property is privately owned. Clean Ohio Fund monies could be obtained to clean up privately owned sites if the current owner did not cause or contribute to the contamination.

McKnight said he would like to bring in consultants who can advise village leaders about what it would cost to clean up these sites and then apply for the funding to make it happen. Teresa Moore/The Ironton Tribune