The city of Wheeling is the recipient of a low-interest loan through one of the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection’s newest funding programs.
The WVDEP’s Brownfield Revolving Fund has provided its first low-interest loan to Wheeling to help remediate and redevelop the former Penn-Wheeling Closure site.
Established in August 2020, the BRF is designed to assist local governments, nonprofits, and private sector businesses to clean up properties contaminated by petroleum or hazardous substances, known as brownfields.
“This program allows us to remove old buildings that are potentially harmful and replace them with something helpful instead,” Gov. Justice said. “I’m incredibly excited to get the ball rolling on this important program that could very well change the face of communities like Wheeling in a very positive way.”
Authorized by the West Virginia Legislature through the West Virginia Voluntary Remediation and Redevelopment Act, the loan fund was capitalized by an $820,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Recently acquired by the City of Wheeling, the former Penn-Wheeling Closure site was the last factory operation of a long line of industries on the property, dating back to the 1800s. Facing known environmental issues, the City purchased the site intending to remediate it, clean it up, and prepare it for future development.
The former structure on the site has been demolished and the debris removed, which will allow for additional testing for areas that were previously inaccessible. The WVDEP’s Voluntary Remediation Program (VRP), which helps property owners make a plan to clean up contaminated properties, is overseeing the project.
“Growing up in this area as a teen, I watched a lot of the industries in this area die off,” said Matt Gadd, VRP project manager with the WVDEP. “A lot of the old mills, manufacturing plants and industrial facilities around the valley closed down, sat abandoned, and became brownfields. It gives me great satisfaction, being a VRP project manager, getting to work on rehabbing these brownfields – going in, cleaning them up, and helping local municipalities and applicants in general to take a piece of property, remediate it, and put it back in working order.”
Funds under the loan program can be used to perform a broad range of cleanup activities that include excavating and removing contaminants, treating contaminated soil and groundwater, demolishing contaminated structures, managing stormwater runoff, and installing security measures to prevent trespassing. Funds can also be used to pay environmental consultants who oversee and certify the cleanup, as well as VRP fees. Funds cannot be used to perform environmental site assessments, such as Phase I or Phase II ESAs, prior to cleanup.
Interest rates for government and nonprofit borrowers range from 0-1.5%. Repayment terms of up to 10 years can be negotiated.