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Brownfield money plus for our region

Our region’s industrial past has a way of hanging around, even as local economies advance and the landscape changes. Local residents are all too familiar with those sites we drive by and wonder “when are they ever going to clean that up?” or “when is someone going to do something with that place?”

When companies fail to do their duty in leaving no trace once they’ve packed up and moved on, it falls on taxpayers to do the dirty work. But it is encouraging to know progress is being made on that front, as Gov. Mike DeWine’s office on Friday announced another 112 Ohio Brownfield Remediation Program projects, amounting to $192 million and affecting 41 counties.

“These properties are vital spaces in our communities, ones that are not only being wasted in their current capacity, but oftentimes are a danger to their local communities,” said DeWine.

“Today, we’re reclaiming these spaces for the future of our residents, businesses and communities.”

Money will be coming to the Jefferson County Port Authority to work on several projects, including:

≤ $300,000 to provide an assessment of the JSW Steel property in Mingo Junction, which has been in use as a steelmaking and industrial facility since 1900. It’s an environmental assessment that’s needed before JSW can go forward with plans for modernization and expansion.

≤ $190,000 for an assessment of the site of the former American Dry Cleaners. The location was first developed in 1910 and saw duty as a grocery store and an appliance store before the dry-cleaning business was established. The building was demolished by the land bank in 2021. The assessments of the soil and groundwater is needed to determine if any contamination from the operations of the dry cleaner, which closed in the 1990s, remain. After assessment, the land bank plans to sell the property to an adjacent property owner for residential or commercial redevelopment.

≤ $210,000 for an assessment at 256 S. Third St. in Steubenville. The site served as a gas station since at least 1973, and a documented petroleum release occurred there in the mid-2000s. Four underground storage tanks are present on the property and have been out of service since 2008. Included in the assessment will be identifying the location and extent of contamination and testing soil and groundwater. After assessment, the port authority plans to prepare the site for redevelopment.

≤ $75,000 for an assessment at R&T Properties in Toronto, which served as a clay pipe manufacturing facility from 1892 to 1980. One structure remains on the site and is in poor condition. Work will help to determine if a petroleum release occurred in addition to soil and groundwater testing. After assessment and any needed remediation, the owner plans to sell the property for commercial or industrial redevelopment.

Site readiness has become an economic development priority here in the Buckeye State, and certainly there are plenty of sites in need of serious work before anyone can start talking about “readiness.”

Making progress in that work will mean a lift for communities even if a new use is not found for those sites immediately.

“These funds are significant investments in the future of our communities,” said Lydia Mihalik, director of the Ohio Department of Development. “By cleaning up these hazardous sites, we’re creating new opportunities for economic growth that will benefit businesses and residents for years to come.”

Here’s hoping such progress continues until the job is done — no matter how long it might take.

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