Mid-Atlantic’s Reina Clark contributed an article to Williamston’s local newspaper highlighting the cleanup of two brownfields sites in the town. The article was published in the April 18, 2017 edition of the Martin County Enterprise & Weekly. The full article is below.
After a cold winter season, many of us rejoice at the opportunity to spend our days indulging in outdoor activities. What can even be more enjoyable is when these activities are appreciated together as a community. Spring Paddle Days on the Roanoke, currently sponsored by the Martin County Tourism Development Council and the Chamber of Commerce, is a community event that residents have enjoyed over the last decade. Since its creation, Roanoke River Partners have assisted with coordinating numerous Paddle Days events throughout the state. This year’s event, scheduled for Sunday April 23rd, begins at Moratoc Park in Williamston, North Carolina, where several participants will launch canoes and kayaks for hours of leisure paddling.
While today Moratoc Park and the associated portion of the Roanoke River are utilized for recreation, the River Road area has a long cultural history as a major river port and thriving center of commerce. However, over the years nearby locations that were once used as gasoline stations, small businesses, or industrial properties have been abandoned. These are also referred to as brownfield sites, or any property where the expansion, development, or reuse is hindered by the real or perceived threat of environmental contamination.
Two particular brownfield properties that have long been a source of blight in this area are the former Royster-Clark and Windsor Oil properties, adjacent to the east of Moratoc Park. Local residents who enjoy the park and surrounding greenways surely noticed these abandoned and overgrown properties littered with remnants of old buildings, electrical poles and concrete debris, serving as sad reminders of their once vibrant industrial past. The Royster-Clark property was formerly used for the bulk storage and distribution of fertilizers and petroleum products from the 1940s until 2006. These products were stored in various aboveground storage tanks (ASTs) throughout the property. These fuels and fertilizers were off-loaded from barges along the Roanoke River and rail cars from an adjacent railroad spur before being transmitted to an on-site tank farm via both above and underground pipelines. The Windsor Oil property formerly operated as a petroleum storage and distribution facility from 1925 until the late 1980s. Windsor Oil also utilized similar tanks and piping to offload, store, and distribute tens of thousands of gallons of petroleum products.
In October of 2010, together in their efforts, the Town of Williamston and Mid-Atlantic Associates Inc. (Mid-Atlantic) of Raleigh, North Carolina applied for and were later awarded two Brownfield Assessment Grants totaling $400,000 from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The grants were used to inventory, assess, and conduct cleanup planning for brownfield sites throughout the Town of Williamston. The grant dollars were also used to assess the extent of environmental contamination at the Royster-Clark and Windsor Oil properties. Upon completion, the town acknowledged that the cleanup of these properties would serve as an integral part in the revitalization of the Williamston Waterfront Redevelopment District along River Road.
In March of 2013, the town entered the Royster-Clark and Windsor Oil properties into the North Carolina Brownfields Program, managed by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ). This program provides development incentives and liability protection for the reuse of environmentally-impaired and underutilized properties. This process subsequently allowed the town to take title to both of the properties, effectively securing valuable community assets and controlling their future use as well. With the sites now in the town’s control, Mid-Atlantic and the town applied for and received an additional $334,000 in EPA grants in 2016 to clean up the two sites.
Mid-Atlantic lead the cleanup initiative and contracted with Greenwood Applied Services, LLC of Colerain, North Carolina to perform the work. Greenwood excavated and disposed of over 770 cubic yards of contaminated soil from the sites and removed the remaining concrete, asphalt, piping, fencing, miscellaneous debris and overgrown vegetation. Over 3,300 cubic yards of clean fill material was used to fill excavated areas, a large hole on the Windsor Oil site, and complete final grading.
The Town of Williamston envisions using these sites to support river recreational activities, provide greenspace along the river, and potentially a cultural education center in the one building that remains on one site. The town envisions use of surrounding properties for camping and cabin rentals with the hopes that this will serve as a catalyst for future recreational and economic development opportunities.
So when you enjoy Paddle Days this year, take the time to walk over to the former industrial properties and take in the lush green space that can now be enjoyed with a picnic or a good book. Close your eyes and imagine the ways you and travelers alike will be able to enjoy the natural beauty of the Roanoke River and these new community assets. Thanks to the initiative of the Town of Williamston, the funding of the EPA, and the assistance of the North Carolina Brownfields Program, the future of this area is now bright, not blight.