CHARLESTON, WV (WOAY) – The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today that the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection’s (WVDEP) Division of Land Restoration will receive a $300,000 grant to assess brownfield properties for potential petroleum and hazardous substance impacts in areas impacted by downsizing of the chemical manufacturing industry.
Assessing these contaminated – or perceived to be contaminated – abandoned and underutilized sites eliminates a barrier for redevelopment and ultimately returns properties to productive and beneficial uses, essentially turning liabilities into assets.
“The State of West Virginia and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection welcome this opportunity to strategically rebuild the economies with resilient and sustainable businesses, restore and enhance quality of life, and ultimately protect future generations from repeat devastation,” said WVDEP Cabinet Secretary, Austin Caperton.
Seven other entities in West Virginia also received EPA Brownfields Grants, bringing the total awarded to West Virginia to $3.2 million.
“At the height of the chemical manufacturing industry in 1954, 38,000 people in West Virginia were employed in the business. As of 2010, only 10,000 jobs remained, and that number has remained largely unchanged over the past decade,” added Casey Korbini, Deputy Director of the WVDEP Division of Land Restoration. “These job losses are especially significant due to lost wages and taxes, with the current average regional chemical worker’s wage at $75,450 per year. Because most of these jobs require a high level of education and training, the decline also resulted in a ‘brain drain.’ The lost chemical industry jobs have also accounted for an estimated 56,000 additional job losses (2 to 1 ratio) from support businesses, with most of these from the small business sector.”
The focus of the WVDEP grant application was the central Kanawha River Valley, extending from Nitro to Belle, but the grant funding can be used anywhere in the state.
WVDEP is engaged with local partners to identify potential brownfield sites for assessment and redevelopment. Those partners include Advantage Valley, the Northern West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center, the Charleston Area Alliance, Charleston Main Streets, the City of South Charleston, the Nitro Development Authority, the Town of Belle, and the West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center at Marshall University.
WVDEP’s Division of Land Restoration will administer the grant awarded to the agency.
The other entities that received EPA Brownfields Grants are:
- The City of Huntington ($350,000)
- Braxton County Development Authority ($300,000)
- The West Virginia Land Stewardship Corporation ($500,000)
- Cornerstone Community Development Corporation ($462,590)
- New River Gorge Regional Development Authority ($442,320)
- Brooke-Hancock Region XI Regional Planning and Development Council ($600,000)
- West Virginia University Research Corporation ($300,000)