Published first on the Progress News, August 2, 2021

Happy August!  If you’re like me, you’re wondering where the year has gone, as 2021 certainly has been a busy, event-filled year for many of us.  For community-focused work, especially, there just never seem to be enough hours in a day!  In towns and cities all around the globe, momentum for local redevelopment initiatives is high, and here in the Oil Region, we’ve been hard at work getting maximum value from our initial $300,000 EPA Community-Wide Assessment grant!

To date, with the support and insight of our regional Steering Committee, we have completed a round of Phase I assessments on properties in Emlenton and Oil City as well as a regional market analysis for reuse planning.  We have initiated Phase II sampling and assessment of the former Fuchs Lubricants facility in Emlenton, with those samples off for analysis as we speak, and Phase II sampling is scheduled to begin shortly at the former Kraft site in Oil City.

While Phase I assessments give us a simplistic understanding of a brownfield, they are far from comprehensive.  Phase I assessments depend on visual inspection and a review of available records, which can be far from complete!  These Phase II assessments will fully inform our remediation strategies for both properties, showing us what is still contaminating the soil, groundwater, and air of these sites.  Then, once we know what we’re actually dealing with, we can clean it up!

As I’ve noted before, none of this is a quick process, of course, as we are dependent on state and federal grant cycles.  And while our current EPA grant is a fantastic start to our redevelopment program, it doesn’t provide funding for remediation works.  We did, however, apply for remediation funding from the DEP’s Industrial Sites Reuse Program earlier this year, and we will be eligible to apply for a new EPA brownfield grant in the upcoming round.  These funding opportunities will allow us to continue moving forward with remediation and redevelopment of our current project sites, and to investigate additional brownfield sites in the region.

One such funding opportunity that will help to identify and prioritize brownfields in the Oil City area, specifically, is the EPA’s Small Community Technical Assistance Brownfield Grant, which is administered by the DEP on behalf of one selected small city or town in the state each year.  This year, the ORA worked with DEP to successfully advocate for Oil City to receive the grant, which is a fantastic opportunity for the future potential of the Oil Region National Heritage Area!

As we continue to partner with the DEP and EPA as well as other state and federal partners, we will continue to build our capacity to identify, assess, remediate, and redevelop our numerous regional brownfield sites, improving the resilience of our landscape and communities, and bringing a higher quality of life to all residents.  Brownfield and redevelopment updates are shared regularly through the AC Valley website – acrivervalley.org – as well as the ORA’s website – oilregion.org, and if you, your organization, or your business is interested in being involved in local redevelopment, please reach out!