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Hearing Set for 19th Street Property Cleanup Plan

Photo by Eric Ayres – The vacant warehouse site on 19th Street in Wheeling is eyed for environmental cleanup. A public hearing has been set for next week, and a 30-day comment period is underway as the city of Wheeling, which purchased the property last year, is seeking state funds for a voluntary remediation plan to clean up the site.

WHEELING – City and state officials are moving toward cleaning up contamination at the former warehouse property on 19th Street in Wheeling, which was recently purchased by the city.

As part of the city’s application to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection’s Brownfield Revolving Loan Fund to participate in a voluntary environmental cleanup at the site, a 30-day public examination and comment period is underway and will continue to Jan. 29. A public notice has been issued, and anyone wishing to provide input can submit comments in writing to the state DEP.

A virtual informational hearing by the city of Wheeling is also scheduled for noon on Jan. 20, when the public will have an opportunity to comment.

Wheeling City Manager Robert Herron recently told city council members that notices have been published and signs have been posted at the site about the comment period and upcoming public hearing about the action plan.

“Once the 30-day comment period is over, then the DEP will issue a final approval of that plan,” he said, “and then we can begin the process of implementing it.”

Purchased from Americo Inc. last year for a reduced price of $150,000, the property is expected to be valued at around $400,000 once the site is cleaned up, cleared and ready to return to the real estate market.

The city is requesting money from the Brownfield Revolving Loan Fund to cover the costs associated with the voluntary cleanup of the 2-acre site, formerly the Penn-Wheeling Closure property. Over the past century, the now vacant site once housed manufacturing operations supported by a railroad system that used to run along the creekside land near the city’s downtown.

According to the public notice, soil samples at the site show contaminants including “metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and volatile organic compounds typical of historical manufacturing and railroad use.” City leaders intend to clean up the contaminants in the soils at the site, remove asbestos from the vacant and deteriorating warehouse buildings on the property, raze the buildings and clear the site altogether.

Last year, city officials initially had considered the 19th street property as a potential site for a new Public Safety Building to house a new police and fire department headquarters. Yet once the city acquired several buildings on the former Ohio Valley Medical Center campus, eyes shifted to renovating the Valley Professional Building on the OVMC property as the new police headquarters.

With the likelihood that DEP funds could be secured to help clean up the 19th Street property, the city still moved forward with its purchase in hopes of cleaning up the site and returning it to the hands of the private sector. The property is flat, in a prime location with easy access and has available utilities, city officials have noted.

The 19th Street property’s current condition with dilapidated and vacant warehouses are the first things motorists see when entering into the city’s downtown from W.Va. 2, city officials have noted, adding that environmental cleanup and removal of the eyesores and the city’s southern gateway will be another step forward for downtown Wheeling in an area of town that has seen a great deal of commercial development in recent years.

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