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Communities Reclaim Industrial Sites For Our Children’s Future

February 21, 2012
By CASEY JUNKINS - Staff Writer , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

The Ohio Valley is long gone from its days as an industrial heavyweight. What's been left behind are many large, empty buildings that once housed thousands of workers - and the buildings generally sit on flat, developable land.

With a lack of developable land in the area, we asked "What has been done to reclaim abandoned industrial sites throughout the Ohio Valley so that developable land is available for the area's future?"

Several local communities have taken advantage of the federal Brownfields program, which provides funding to demolish and remediate former industrial sites.

Article Photos

File Photo by Casey Junkins
Though ArcelorMittal Weirton has no plans to restart the BOP Caster, United Steelworkers Local 2911 President Mark Glyptis sees a bright future for redevelopment in the city.

The Lowe's project in Center Wheeling is a good example of what the program does, as the city of Wheeling remediated a former salvage yard and CSX railroad site to make way for a new development.

In Weirton, United Steelworkers Local 2911 President Mark Glyptis knows the days of Weirton Steel and Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel employing thousands of Upper Ohio Valley residents are long gone.

Because Glyptis said current Weirton plant owner, ArcelorMittal, has no intention of ever restarting Weirton's once roaring blast furnace, BOP Caster and other ends of the mill, he believes the company is very interested in selling the unused property.

"ArcelorMittal has clearly stated that they are only interested in the tin facility. If it is not used to make tin, they don't want it," he emphasized.

The company now is trying to sell some or all of the 1,700 acres of industrial property it owns for the creation of what Glyptis terms "family-supporting jobs."

"There is still a great deal of confidence that we can get good jobs to come in here," Glyptis said. "We would much rather have the mill booming, but if that's not the case, let's help revitalize the (Ohio) Valley by putting that property to some other use."

Glyptis admits that selling the land is not easy because whomever would decide to buy it would need to demolish old buildings and perform environmental cleanup before constructing anything new on the property.

"This site is perfect for a lot of huge companies that may want to build here," Glyptis said, noting the current natural gas rush and the associated operations may play a role in such development. "You have water access, highway access, railway access, and are very close to (Pittsburgh) International Airport."

Federal grants through the Brownfields program are available to help with such remediation, and one local city has had success in cleaning up certain areas.

In Wheeling, city leaders used a Brownsfield grant to demolish a former auto salvage yard and remediate the property, along with adjacent railroad property, to allow Lowe's to locate in Center Wheeling. The store employs many local residents and pays its share of taxes to the city.

Natural gas companies working in the area also have been finding ways to re-use former industrial sites.

The Caiman Energy fractionation facility under construction on the former Olin Chemical site along the Ohio River, south of Moundsville, is a good example of how this takes place. Once the project is complete, Caiman will be able to separate 12,500 barrels of natural gas liquids daily by April 1, with total fractionation capacity at the site expected to reach 42,500 barrels daily by Oct. 1.

Moundsville officials also are working to finish with demolition at the former Fostoria Glass plant in the hopes of redeveloping that property.

At its peak, Fostoria employed nearly 800 people working three shifts a day, seven days a week. The plant closed in 1985 the company that had purchased the plant several years earlier and its holding company declared bankruptcy.

For 17 years, the plant sat empty, deteriorating at a rapid pace. The city of Moundsville purchased it for $7 at a tax sale.

"The goal was to raze the buildings, get it back in the tax maps, get jobs in the community and get rid of the eyesore," former city manager Allen Hendershot said.

Today, only piles of rubble remain at the site, and the city is in the "voluntary remediation plan" stage of the project.

During that phase, the DEP will survey the site to ensure there is no contamination and then issue a certificate of completion.

City council also is considering giving up ownership of the property to private investors in an effort to attract businesses more quickly.

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