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Virginia Congressional Staff Hear Brownfields Progress

Release Date: 6/24/1999
Contact Information: Ruth Podems, (215) 814-5540

THE CAPITOL -- Officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality briefed the Virginia congressional staff today on the progress of the brownfields redevelopment program and other Superfund hazardous waste issues throughout the commonwealth.

"Annual Superfund briefings provide vital timely and accurate information from which congressional staffs can develop policy recommendations and stay current on this critical work to protect public health in their states. This year’s briefing showcased the brownfields program in Virginia, a which is putting abandoned industrial properties back into productive use," said W. Michael McCabe, EPA’s Regional Administrator.

EPA representatives from the agency’s Philadelphia office (which covers Virginia) told congressional staff members from the offices of Senators John Warner and Charles Robb and Representatives Norman Sisisky, Rick Boucher, Owen Pickett, Robert Scott, Thomas Bliley, and James Moran that through the agency’s brownfields’ program, 12 federal Superfund sites are being used or are planned for reuse to benefit their communities. Some of those sites include:

Avtex Fibers, Inc. -- EPA is working with the town of Front Royal and Warren County to smooth the way for future use. The disposal area of the site will be cleaned up for public recreation and a wildlife conservancy. The manufacturing portion will be cleaned up for use as a business park with a light industrial use component.

Former Nansemond Ordnance Depot -- Plans include developing a portion of the area into a technology park.

Rentokil, Inc. -- When this site is clean, it will support commercial or light industrial development.

In addition to redeveloping specific sites, the EPA gives brownfields pilot grants to cities to identify and assess the brownfields located within their limits. The City of Richmond has used a $200,000 brownfields grant to jumpstart the redevelopment of an old armory property which is being used by Whitehall-Robins Healthcare, a pharmaceutical company, to expand its research capability. The company is moving forward with plans to build a new laboratory and office for 350 employees

In Northampton County along Virginia’s Eastern Shore, a sprawling 200-acre eco-industrial park is taking shape. The Cape Charles park incorporates natural habitat protection into its overall plans. Included in the generous funding from various public and private sources, a $200,000 EPA brownfields grant was awarded in 1998. Construction of the park’s first building was completed in March 1999.

The Commonwealth of Virginia is assessing 22 brownfield sites throughout the state using a $500,000 grant from the EPA. The assessment period ends in September, and an additional $250,000 is being considered.

The congressional staff also learned about the progress of the 31 ongoing, long-term Superfund cleanups throughout the state. Of those, eight sites have been cleaned up, 14 sites have cleanups underway and another nine are being investigated or plans are being developed.

For example, at the Abex Corp. site in Portsmouth, more than 17,000 tons of lead-contaminated soil has been excavated, and 60 families were temporarily relocated while lead contamination was cleaned from their properties. In anticipation of the completed cleanup, the City of Portsmouth is making plans for reusing portions of the Abex site.

Three contaminated federal facilities soon will be home to diverse wildlife. The NASA Wallops Island rocket launch pad on the Delmarva Peninsula should, in the near future, support bird, fish and crustacean populations, now that the chloroform, petroleum, pesticides, and chromium have been cleaned from the soil and groundwater. The launch site will become a restored wetland.

Bailey Creek at Fort Eustis in Newport News is one step closer to a wetlands restoration project, as well. Approximately 6,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment will be removed from the creek to prevent spreading of PCBs.

And, at the Naval Weapons Station in Yorktown an innovative technology that uses bacteria to eat explosives in the soil seems to be working. The technology uses natural, biodegradable plant fibers to stimulate the growth of the explosives-eating bacteria in the soil.