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Which Industrial Wasteland Should Worcester Cleanup Next?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

 

Old manufacturing towns throughout the Northeast face heady cleanup costs associated with extinct industry, but redeveloping those parcels can create new opportunities for economic activity and growth.

With millions in available funding, what's the next parcel in Worcester eyed for cleanup and reuse? Industrial parks in the north and south make the list, but one site pops up repeatedly among city councilors and business and development leaders: the vacant Wyman-Gordon property on Madison Street.

“The Wyman-Gordon Co. site on Madison Street, near Kelley Square, is a terrible eyesore, a hazardous waste cesspool and a detriment to the historic Green Island/Canal District area of the city,” said district 5 city Councilor Gary Rosen. “While still seeing some manufacturing use, it has languished in limbo much too long.”

“However, it remains one of the most prominent and choice parcels available in the city,” he added, with potential for retail, housing, and entertainment. The site had been reviewed as a potential location for a casino in past years.

“I have to believe that if a Slots Parlor developer saw its promise, then many other developers with more palatable projects could be approached to put the land to good use,” said Rosen.

“Wyman-Gorman is definitely ideal,” said district 4 city Councilor Sarai Rivera, because of its intersection at multiple neighborhoods. “We'd love to see something happen with that area.”

Brownfields: 100s in Worcester, 10,000s across state

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the city of Worcester has more than 200 documented so-called “brownfields,” defined as real property whose expansion, redevelopment, or reuse is complicated by hazardous substances, pollutants, or contaminants.

The sites were often contaminated over years of various industry by myriad companies before modern environmental regulations. With about 40,000 contaminated sites across the state, the EPA estimates it has spent over $100 million on assessment and remediation in Massachusetts between 1994 and 2013.

An additional more than $78 million has been spent through MassDevelopment and the state's Brownfields Redevelopment Fund.

“It's common with us being an older industrial city,” said Paul Morano Jr., Worcester's director of business assistance and coordinator for the city's Brownfield Cleanup Revolving Loan Fund (BCRLF).

Since the revolving loan program began in 2003, the fund has paid out approximately $2.3 million to assess and remediate brownfield sites. Still, “there are some big ones out there,” Morano said, including the 14-acre Wyman-Gordon site.

The BCRLF still has approximately $1.2 million on hand in revolving loan funds available for remediation projects, and Morano says the city is looking for interested parties. “The key is identifying developers.”

Former Telegram & Gazette building near completion

The most recent project supported through brownfield cleanup funds, the former Worcester Telegram & Gazette building at 20 Franklin Street, is on track to be renovated and fully opened by August of this year.

Undertaken by the Worcester Business Development Corporation, the estimated $1.1 million cleanup of asbestos, lead, and other contaminants was supported by $500,000 in remediation funds from the EPA and city loan fund, which itself receives grant moneys from the EPA.

While some are critical of the use of taxpayer funds, city councilors and business officials point to the positive economic benefits of rehabbing formerly blighted sites.

Environmental and economic benefits to cleanup

“While the process may be time consuming, it does create new development sites and jobs, increase tax revenue, and improve the health and welfare of residents and workers,” according to Morano.

“The environmental cleanup part is very costly,” Rivera said, complicated by ownership, liability, and financial constraints.

“I think the chamber is supportive,” said Tim Murray, president and chief executive officer of the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce. Murray, who formerly convened a brownfields roundtable during his tenure as mayor in Worcester, points to a number of former sites across the city, including Saint Vincent Hospital and Gateway Park, the latter of which was recognized with a Phoenix Award for revitalization in 2007.

“So it's been done in Worcester,” Murray said. “Worcester has a great history of projects big and small. But there's still a lot to do.”

What's next? With Wyman-Gordon, the old courthouse, the former GKN Sinter Metals site in the Canal District, and underutilized parcels at Saint Gobain and elsewhere, Morano said the city was currently applying for an additional $1 million revolving loan fund grant and a $400,000 assessment grant (both competitively awarded by the EPA).

The delayed start of SWIP

One site that hasn't seen as much success is the South Worcester Industrial Park (SWIP), a mostly city-owned, 11-acre former brownfield site where remediation work concluded last year after the project began in 1994.

“It's currently at a restarting point,” said Ronald Charette, executive director of the South Worcester Neighborhood Center and chair of the task force that has headed up the project.

After fits and starts and a failed deal with a biotechnology company, Charette said the project's organizers realized they needed a more focused plan. “The epiphany was we didn't have a real sense of vision.”

Currently, “we're focusing on what kinds of business should live there.” Utilizing partnerships with area colleges including Clark University business students, Charette said project managers were working on a marketing plan for the envisioned mixed-use park. The park has also received a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) agreement with the city.

With the site primed for development and with support from the city council, Charette said 2014 would be the year SWIP sees use. “We're at that point now.”

“This isn't just something that's great for a neighborhood or a district, but it's good for the entire city,” said district 4's Rivera. “This is economic development.”

District 1 city Councilor Anthony Economou said he agrees with that sentiment, and pointed to the underutilized Higgins Industrial Park in the north end of the city as another location. “Any of those sites that once were industrial manufacturing that we can recycle and reuse ... it does real good things for the city.”

State cleanup fund fully deployed but support still there

“Given that many of them are near where our kids live and go to school, cleaning them up is important,” said school committee member Tracy Novick. “The impact of health on children's education is not always recognized, but is significant.”

While the state's redevelopment fund was fully awarded as of fiscal year 2013, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection spokesperson Edmund Coletta said there are efforts to recapitalize the fund.

Coletta also points to state tax credits, subsidized environmental insurance, renewable solar energy incentives, and traditional real estate incentives that also contribute to the redevelopment of brownfields around the state.

“The Patrick administration strongly supports brownfield redevelopment as it is a win-win for all involved,” he continued, replacing blighted, underutilized, or vacant properties with enterprises, housing, renewable energy developments, or green space. “Redeveloping brownfields not only cleans the environment, but also creates jobs and tax revenue and, overall, provides for a better quality of life for residents.”

 

Related Slideshow: Central MA Brownfield Sites

Glossary

Brownfields (BF) are defined as real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.

RCRA Corrective Action (RCRA) sites are facilities which treated, stored, or disposed of hazardous wastes. These facility owners are required to clean up environmental contaminants released into soil, ground water, surface water, and air at their sites under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).

Short Term/Removal (SHORT) sites are typically hazardous waste sites that do not require a long-term cleanup process are considered short-term cleanups (also referred to as "removal actions").

Long Term/National Priority List (NPL) sites are, in most cases, sites that require long-term cleanup end up on the National Priorities List (NPL). The NPL is a published list of hazardous waste sites that are eligible for extensive, long-term cleanup actions under the Superfund Program

BP: Brownfields Program

Prev Next

Central MA Regional Planning Commission

2 Washington Square, Union Station - 2nd Floor, Worcester

Site Type: BF

Total EPA Funding Received: $400,000

Fuding Type: Site Assessment

Current Status: N/A

Read more

Prev Next

City of Worcester BP

455 Main Street, Worcester

Site Type: BF

Total EPA Funding Received: $3.487 million

Fuding Type: Site Assessment, Revolving Loan Fund, Cleanup Grant

Current Status: N/A

Read more

Prev Next

Coes Knife Property

Coes Street, Worcester

Site Type: BF

Total EPA Funding Received: N/A

Fuding Type: Site Assessment, Targeted Brownfields

Current Status: A Phase 1 Targeted Brownfields Assessment (TBA) was completed on 8/30/2001. A Phase II Report was completed on 11/26/02.

Read more

Prev Next

Main South Community Development Corporation

875 Main Street, Worcester

Site Type: BF

Total EPA Funding Received: $400,000

Fuding Type: Cleanup Grant

Current Status: N/A

Read more

Prev Next

New Garden Park Inc.

89 Shrewsbury Street, Suite 300, Worcester

Site Type: BF

Total EPA Funding Received: $600,000

Fuding Type: Cleanup Grant

Current Status: N/A

Read more

Prev Next

South Worcester Neighborhood Improvement Corp.

47 Camp Street, Worcester

Site Type: BF

Total EPA Funding Received: $214,650

Fuding Type: Cleanup Grant

Current Status: N/A

Read more

Prev Next

Wyman Gordon - Worcester

105 Madison Street, Worcester

Site Type: RCRA

Description: New RCRA Corrective Action Site for 2020 Baseline.

Read more

Prev Next

Central MA Economic Development Authority

Worcester, Grafton, Shrewsbury

Site Type: BF

Total EPA Funding Received: $793,710

Fuding Type: Site Assessment, Revolving Loan Fund

Current Status: The Revolving Loan Fund was closed on January 8, 2002 and the Assessment Grant was closed on September 27, 2004.

Read More

Photo: Flickr/USACE HQ

Prev Next

Town of Brookfield BP

6 Central Street, Brookfield

Site Type: BF

Total EPA Funding Received: $200,000

Fuding Type: Cleanup Grant

Current Status: N/A

Read more

Prev Next

Town of Northborough BP

63 Main Street, Northborough

Site Type: BF

Total EPA Funding Received: $200,000

Fuding Type: Cleanup Grant

Current Status: N/A

Read more

Prev Next

City of Fitchburg BP

718 Main Street, Fitchburg

Site Type: BF

Total EPA Funding Received: $350,500

Fuding Type: Site Assessment, Cleanup Grant

Current Status: The city focused on the following properties: 26 Willow Street; 49 Snow Street; Former Hope Rubber company; as well as several others.

Read more

Prev Next

Milford Bike Path

51-53 Sumner Street, Milford

Site Type: Short Term/Removal

Description: MassDEP requested EPA to remove surface and subsurface soils containing high concentrations of heavy metals.

Current Status: In August 2011, the EPA completed the removal site evaluation and determined a federal response and a removal action is appropriate.

Read more

Prev Next

Town of North Brookfield BP

193 Main Street, North Brookfield

Site Type: BF

Total EPA Funding Received: $600,000

Fuding Type: Cleanup Grant

Current Status: N/A

Read more

Prev Next

Net Optics Corp.

660 Main Street, Route 20, Sturbridge

Site Type: RCRA

Description: Galileo Electro Optics, Sturbridge manufactures optical equipment. The facility generates small volumes of organic solvents. The site formerly operated a hazardous waste lagoon until 1971. Since then, significant cleanup work has been performed in the lagoon. The site is undergoing investigation and cleanup under a post closure plan approved by the MassDEP.

Current Status: N/A

Read more

Prev Next

Safety Kleen

224 East Main Street, West Brookfield

Site Type: RCRA

Description: Safety-Kleen, West Brookfield is an organic solvent waste collection and storage facility. The facility is located on approximately 1 acre of land. The site is zoned for industrial and commercial use. Organic solvents are collected and stored in tanks. Some cleanup work has been performed. The site is undergoing investigation and cleanup under a hazardous waste license issued by the MassDEP.

Current Status: N/A

Read more

Prev Next

City of Gardner BP

City Hall Annex - Room 202, Gardner

Site Type: BF

Total EPA Funding Received: $1.3 million

Fuding Type: Site Assessment, Revolving Loan Fund, Cleanup Grant,

Current Status: The city has had several properties approved to receiving funding for assessment work through their BF assessment grant.

Read more

Prev Next

Fisherville Mill

60 Main Street, Grafton

Site Type: Short Term/Removal

Description: The approximately 16.2-acre site is bounded to the north by Fisherville Pond, to the east by the Blackstone River, to the south by Route 122A, and to the west by private residences.

Current Status: EPA entered into an Administrative Order on Consent with CMEDA in which EPA provided heavy equipment and equipment operators to segregate, when possible, uncontaminated salvageable demolished debris (steel, granite, etc.), and to place ACM debris into trucks for off-site disposal pre-arranged and funded by CMEDA.

Read more

Prev Next

Temple-Stuart Site

4 Holman Street, Baldwinville

Site Type: Short Term/Removal

Description: The Temple-Stuart site is a 23-acre property with five adjoining buildings and a garage located in a largely residential area. The Temple-Stuart facility is approximately three eighths of a mile from the center of Baldwinville.

Current Status: On July 12, 2002, EPA signed an Action Memorandum recommending the following cleanup activities

Read more

Prev Next

Hocomonco Pond

Otis Street, Westborough

Site Type: Short Term/Removal

Description: The 23-acre Hocomonco Pond site is bordered on the northwest by Hocomonco Pond, a 27 acre shallow, freshwater pond which has long been used for recreational purposes. From 1928 until 1946 the site was used as a wood-treating and preservation operation.

Current Status: The Second Five Year Review conducted in September of 2009 concluded that the remedies for the Hocomonco Pond site are expected to remain protective of human health and the environment once the deed restrictions are in place. The property remains fenced at the perimeter and there has been no evidence of trespassing.

Read more

Prev Next

Genrad Inc

Bolton

Site Type: RCRA

Description: Genrad no longer operates at this location but at one time conducted electroplating operations and generated electroplating wastes. The site formerly operated a hazardous waste lagoon. Significant cleanup work has been performed in the lagoon. The site has undergone investigation and cleanup under a hazardous waste closure plan issued by the MA DEP.

Current Status: N/A

Read more

Prev Next

ECC - Holden

156 Princeton Street, Holden

Site Type: RCRA

Description: ECC, Holden manufactures printed circuit boards. The facility generates ignitable, corrosive and electroplating wastes. The site formerly operated a hazardous waste lagoon. Significant cleanup work has been performed in the lagoon. The site is undergoing investigation and cleanup under a consent order issued by the MA DEP.

Current Status: N/A

Read more

Prev Next

Waters Analytic Instruments

34 Maple Street, Milford

Site Type: RCRA

Description: New RCRA Corrective Action Site for 2020 Baseline.

Current Status: N/A

Read more

Prev Next

Wyman Gordon - North Grafton

244 Worcester Street, North Grafton

Site Type: RCRA

Description: Wyman Gordon, North Grafton manufactures metallic parts for the aerospace and aircraft industries. The facility is located on a 232 acre parcel of land. The facility generates degreasing solvent, oil, acids and electroplating wastes and stores them in drums and tanks. 

Current Status: N/A

Read more

Prev Next

Simplex Time Recorder Company

1 Simplex Plaza, Gardner

Site Type: RCRA

Description: New RCRA Corrective Action Site for 2020 Baseline.

Current Status: N/A

Read more

Prev Next

Evergreen Solar Emergency Response

112 Barnum Road, Devens

Site Type: Short Term/Removal

Description: On October 15, 2008 EPA OSC Melanie Morash responded to a release of several thousand gallons of a diluted hydrofluoric-sulfuric-nitric acid mixture at the Evergreen Solar facility (a solar panel manufacturer) in Devens, MA, near the former Fort Devens Military Base. Approximately 458 gallons overflowed a containment area under an air scrubber unit, flowing across a parking lot to a storm drain, then to a man-made vegetated retention pond where the liquid was apparently contained.

Current Status: N/A

Read more

 
 

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