Land Revitalization Fall '05 Newsletter – Flood Control in Bluefield, Va. Leads to Cleanup and Greenway Development
Officials in Bluefield, Virginia got more than they bargained for - ultimately, in a good way - when they went looking for relief from frequent flooding. What they weren't looking for were unresolved contamination problems.
The town began working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency in 2002 to devise a plan that would keep their downtown from flooding. When FEMA got involved with Bluefield, a proposal was in place to demolish some existing buildings in the downtown, open up a channelized stream and create a greenway with open space. The plan also called for demolishing the Bluefield town hall and several businesses, including a gas station, barber shop, service garage, supermarket, restaurant, pharmacy, textile factory and ice cream plant.
Since FEMA grant money was to be used for purchasing and demolishing the properties, environmental site assessments had to be conducted before allowing the purchase of each property. These assessments identified petroleum contamination on two separate properties — Skip's Auto Garage and Mustang Sally's Hair Salon. FEMA grant restrictions would not allow the purchase of these sites until all state and federal regulatory issues were resolved.
The Town of Bluefield and their environmental consultant worked with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (VADEQ) to investigate and take corrective actions at each of these sites. By working closely with VADEQ, the town was able to achieve closure for each contamination issue in time to meet the grant requirements. The town was awarded the FEMA grant money and purchased each property. After purchasing the properties, the Town of Bluefield discovered three additional leaking underground storage tanks. The town again worked expeditiously with VADEQ to resolve all regulatory issues associated with the discovery of these tanks.
The stream channel work has been completed and the greenway is in the final stages of construction. The work done by the Town of Bluefield, FEMA, and VADEQ has allowed for the redevelopment of these petroleum impacted properties. This project ultimately resolved some of the downtown flooding issues, created a useful greenway, and addressed several environmental impacts. In May, the Bluefield Town Council approved a plan to create Jack Asbury Square on the newly created greenway. Jack Asbury Square, now under construction, will be used as a public park and will be home for a community Christmas tree.