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Former brick-making plant cleared for use as park area

January 02, 2011|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthewu@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — An old, 78-acre brick-making plant site near Hedgesville, W.Va., has been cleared for recreational use after an engineering firm concluded pollutant levels do not require remediation and pose no threat to health or the environment, officials said last week.

The findings of an environmental assessment of the North Mountain site off Allensville Road by GeoConcepts Engineering Inc. of Ashburn, Va., have given the Berkeley County Solid Waste Authority the green light to finalize an agreement with LCS Services Inc. to donate the land to Berkeley County, said Clint Hogbin, chairman of the solid waste authority.

LCS Services, a subsidiary of Waste Management Inc., signed a nonbinding letter of intent in March 2009 to donate the land.

The deal, which Hogbin said might be finalized relatively quickly this year, requires the Berkeley County Council to agree to hold title to the property, which was where the Adamantine Clay Products Co. began operations in 1911, according to historical accounts.

Hogbin said solid waste authority board members will encourage county leaders to accept the property, which would be added to the county’s park system and managed by the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Parks & Recreation Board.

While GeoConcepts concluded that any pollutants on the property fell below levels set by the state Department of Environmental Protection, the engineering firm concluded that a large pile of bricks (estimated to be 335,000 cubic yards) on the property should be leveled and capped with clean soil to eliminate dangerous slopes.

“Care should be taken when disturbing the brick debris pile, as a limited number of samples were collected and may not be representative of every portion of the pile,” the engineering firm concluded in an executive summary of its 98-page report.

With the donation, LCS Services is abandoning possible development of a railroad connection to the nearby North Mountain Sanitary Landfill, which it operates.

The potential shipping of waste via rail to the landfill from outside the region once was a huge concern to the community, and the elimination of rail access is of most interest to the solid waste authority, Hogbin said.

The agreement, if approved by all parties involved, still would preserve LCS Services’ access to an underground pipe that travels from the landfill onto the property, Hogbin said.

R. Stephen Catlett, executive director of the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Parks & Recreation Board, said last week that the western portion of the property along Allensville Road is being eyed for fields for baseball, softball and soccer, and will offer area teams a place to practice.

While much of the 19.8-acre, western section of the proposed donation is relatively flat and accessible, Hogbin said the larger section east of the CSX railroad appears to have a more natural, rolling topography and might best be used for passive recreational purposes.

Because of the railroad, access to the eastern portion also looms as a challenge, Hogbin and Catlett said. An at-grade railroad crossing exists on the property, but Hogbin said there is no defined route to it.

Before closing in the early 1970s, the brick company mined shale from a belt of the rock that outcropped along the east side of North Mountain near the plant site, and bricks once were shipped to Martinsburg and to eastern and southern cities from the plant, according to historical accounts.

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