Published first on the Progress News, February 8, 2021

Last week I shared the tale of a very successful Redevelopment project that sparked the transformation of an entire region.  As I alluded to, though, the process is neither instantaneous nor cheap.  As we get fully underway with our current EPA Brownfield project, I’d like to show where we are and how it relates to a project like the Boiler House, which took more than four years and cost more than twenty million dollars, all up – and that was after a considerable amount of previous work on the surrounding asbestos manufacturing and waste disposal sites.  Right now, we’re in the earliest stages of brownfield redevelopment in our region.  Compared to Ambler, we’re in the “considerable amount of previous work” stage as we attempt to gauge the full extent of contamination on several sites across the region and prioritize clean-up and redevelopment based on costs, demand, and feasibility. 

The $300,000 awarded to the ORA last year has allowed us to analyze existing environmental information on the Quaker State and Fuchs sites in Emlenton and begin development of a work plan to fill in assessment gaps and move toward remediation.  We’ve been working with contractors for the ARTinCC rail-trail group to coordinate environmental assessment efforts along the old railroad with development of the rail trail in Foxburg.  We have also completed an initial background assessment on two brownfields in Oil City, allowing the ORA to finalize the purchase of one of them.  In order to access much of the available federal and state brownfield funds, the project site must be owned by an eligible non-profit, community development entity such as the ORA, so these steps are crucial to eventual redevelopment and reuse.  As things stand, we’re only four months into a three-year project, so we’re feeling pretty good about the progress we’ve made.

There is still a ton of work to go, of course.  Our next steps are to complete a thorough on-site environmental analysis of the Kraft site in Oil City, now that it is owned by the ORA, which will allow us to seek additional funding for clean-up.  We will be completing the initial work plan for the next stage of remediation at the Quaker State complex this quarter and submitting it to the PA Department of Environmental Protection.  If they approve the work plan, we will be eligible for up to $1M in remediation funding in 2022, dependent on state budget allowances, which would get us to the physical redevelopment stage for that particular brownfield.

Over the entire course of the project, we will be reaching out to all of you in the community to share your input, ideas, and inspiration for the eventual redevelopment of these and other sites.  We’ve been hard at work on an update to the AC Valley Blueprint website, which will be going live in the next week, so that we can stay better connected with everyone in our region and keep the stream of information flowing.  We’re also looking at ways to more effectively connect through social media, and, eventually, in-person again!  As always, I encourage everyone to stay up to date, stay involved, and stay in touch.