Special permission keeps plant cleanup alive at Yorkville

YORKVILLE – The status of a grant to provide environmental cleanup at the former Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Yorkville Plant was the topic of a public meeting Monday in the mill’s main office.

The eventual cleanup of the site will lead to its reuse, and, according to plant owners Esmark, new job opportunities with new businesses on the site.

The grant originally was a commitment for $1 million negotiated two years ago during a bankruptcy sale, but it ended up providing access to just $417,000. The money also was limited to being used for assessing environmental issues at the shuttered mill on Public Road.

Representatives of an environmental consulting firm hired by Esmark in March reviewed the grant with local politicians and residents during the meeting.

Kara Allison of Hull Associates of Dublin, said it had taken about two weeks to find special administrative access to any of the funds that had been earmarked for cleanup at the 100-year-old Yorkville mill.

Representatives of the firm couldn’t provide details on why the grant wasn’t used in a timely fashion to allow access to the full cleanup amount.

Allison said normally, if the grant had been used in a timely fashion, the assessment funds would have eventually led to release of the full grant for the cleanup work.

Hull officials said Esmark brought the firm on board with only a small time window remaining to access the cleanup portion of the grant. The multi-year grant program was supposed to be used by June 30.

Allison said the program’s director made exceptions to allow access for the environmental assessment work.

Hull’s personnel were on hand to conduct the meeting as part of a grant application made by the Jefferson County Regional Planning Commission recently to the Clean Ohio Assistance Fund.

The original amount requested by the commission was $200,000, the standard ceiling for a Phase II environmental assessment.

The exception by the program director gave access to the $417,000 for the site assessment.

Hull officials said Esmark and its project partners are to provide at least 25 percent in matching funds to support the project, including $62,722 required to complete the environmental assessment.

Esmark, according to Allison, will be the designated project developer for redevelopment of the 53-acre site. Allison said Esmark plans to address all historical environmental issues with the site to prepare it for re-use.

She said, “Esmark is evaluating a variety of different opportunities to insert multiple businesses into the Yorkville facility and bring jobs back to Yorkville.”

Information about the grant is available for public review at the Tiltonsville branch library, 702 Walden Ave., Tiltonsville, and online at www.rpc.jeffersoncountyoh.com.