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Group mulls reuse of Superfund site

February 21, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

At a Thursday meeting, Hagerstown Planning Director Kathleen Maher walked a citizens committee through the impact of about 15 types of reuses of Central Chemical's contaminated 19-acre property in Hagerstown's West End.

The property off Mitchell Avenue, off North Burhans Boulevard, was put on the Environmental Protection Agency's Superfund list of the country's most hazardous waste sites in 1997.

The Land Use Committee, which began meeting in November, has been asked by the end of June to develop a recommendation to let the EPA and the city know what the community thinks should be done with the property.

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The EPA will determine whether that use is realistic and feasible.

At the monthly meeting, Maher analyzed various types of industrial, commercial, residential and parks uses, as well as putting a medical center, school, government building or museum on the property. The committee is scheduled to discuss the benefits and consequence of those uses at future meetings.

The property near the Giant Eagle supermarket is zoned industrial so some uses would require the city approving a rezoning. Maher said the committee could expect some rezonings, such as to allow dense residential development on the property, to spark resistance and opposition at city meetings.

A 7 p.m. March 20, a public meeting at Western Heights Middle School is scheduled, at which people who are not on the committee can hear about the possible reuses and give feedback.

The Land Use Committee has about 25 members, including government officials, the president of Central Chemical, citizens and members of nonprofit organizations.

David Schwartz, representing Central Chemical, said at the meeting that the company prefers the idea of having an industrial or commercial project on the property to a residential project.

In late September, the city awarded a $67,686 contract to E2 of Charlottesville, Va., to help organize a public outreach, facilitate the committee and public meetings and provide technical review of ideas developed. Funding for the contract comes from an EPA grant.

What is built at the site depends on the nature and level of the contamination, city and EPA officials said.

The EPA plans to soon conduct research, including taking soil samples, to determine the extent of contamination. That analysis, which will include a feasibility study for the cleanup, will take about two years, EPA officials have said.

According to the EPA, from the 1930s through the mid-1980s, Central Chemical blended agricultural pesticides and fertilizers, creating waste and byproducts that were allegedly disposed of in an old stone quarry on the property and in a sinkhole. Contaminants on the site include arsenic, lead, benzene, aldrin, chlordane, DDD, DDE, DDT, dieldrin and methoxychlor.

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