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EPA Funds Rochester Brownfield Remediation Project

sykesdelcoThe Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will assist Rochester’s effort to refurbish the communities affected by the Orchard-Whitney brownfield site.

The Democrat and Chronicle reports that the federal agency will fund repairing and cleaning efforts in the brownfield properties encapsulated by Lyell Avenue and Whitney and Orchard Streets. A “brownfield” is an urban planning term that denotes a property or area of land that was formally used for commercial or industrial purposes and, therefore, contains hazardous or pollutants contaminants that can make reuse of the property difficult. The funding for this project is part of the EPA’s “Brownfields Program” that restores brownfield lands across the country.

The property in question hosted a variety of industrial factories in the early 20th century. Though the factories have since shut down, they left behind hazardous substances, such as heavy metals and volatile compounds, in the ground and groundwater. The 3.9 acre property has been vacant since 2008.

Remediation efforts have been in place for years, particularly on the underground petroleum storage tanks found on the property. The site has undergone many arson fires over the years. In 2011, for example, a former AC Delco building experienced a three-alarm fire. In 2003, the building experienced a seven-alarm fire, emitting 60-foot fireballs into the air. It took more than 120 firefighters and rescue workers to put out the blaze.

In addition to the EPA, the Charles Settlement House and Charles House Neighbors in Action organizations have developed a plan for the remediation and reconstruction efforts.

Congresswoman Louise M. Slaughter, a democrat from the Fairport district, encouraged and announced the EPA funding.

“Clean and safe neighborhoods are important for every family in Rochester, and essential if we want to attract new businesses and residents to our area,” Slaughter said. “I’m glad that the EPA has given us the resources to make our neighborhoods more livable, and I look forward to seeing progress on cleaning up abandoned properties and rebuilding this area.”

Scott Benjamin, the president and CEO of the Charles Settlement House, is also hopeful that the efforts will improve the neighborhood and attract newcomers to the city.

“Having [the abandoned buildings] come down is good for the safety of the neighborhood and for the psyche,” Benjamin said, “and then it becomes this very large parcel of land that could be viable for commercial, industrial or residential uses, depending on what works out.”

Among the sources of contaminants, above ground storage tanks are particularly dangerous when leaking. Some of their stored materials are so toxic, in fact, that government and industry regulations strictly control how the tanks are built, maintained, and inspected. API 650, for example, which is now in its 12th edition, regulates how above ground storage tanks are built.