A US Environmental Protection Agency (EPS) funded project is making progress in Williamsburg County. Brownfields Project Grant funds are being used to conduct Phase I ESA’s (Environmental Site Assessments) on properties within the county. Two properties located at 125 and 111 Hampton Avenue in Kingstree and 1273 Morgan Avenue in Andrews fit the grant profile.
By definition, a "brownfield" is any land in the United States that is abandoned, idled, or under used because redevelopment and/or expansion is complicated by environmental contamination that is either real or perceived. Nesmith resident Cassandra Williams Rush, who is community liaison for Williamsburg County spearheaded the endeavor. She presented the information to Williamsburg County Supervisor Stanley Pasley and Williamsburg County Council who later followed through with the grant process. In 2010, the county was awarded the grant.
The current $400,000 grant assessment provides $200,000 to assess a site contaminated by hazardous substances, pollutants, or contaminants and $200,000 to address a site contaminated by petroleum.
Brownfields differ from Superfund sites in the degree of contamination. Superfund sites pose a real threat to human health and/or the environment. Brownfields, on the other hand, do not pose serious health or environmental threat. Instead, they represent an economic or social threat, since they prevent development and therefore stifle local economies.
In the southeast, 30 communities have been selected to receive brownfields grants to assess, cleanup and redevelop properties. Nationally, 40 states, four tribes and one US Territory will share more than $78 million in brownfields grants. Activities will culminate in May or June of 2013. However, once the activities under the assessment grant are completed the county will automatically be in a position to apply for additional grant monies to clean up a site or sites identified in the assessment grant, thereby making the property marketable and attractive to investors/business persons as a potential location for a business/industry.
Rush said though the project will help with economic development and bring jobs to Williamsburg County, it would take time. "Please understand that this will not happen overnight; this is a process." Rush added that the funds also provide a community outreach program to include the formation of a Task Force Committee of citizens to provide input and assemble a list of properties that meet the definition of a brownfield. "We are seeking organizations or businesses to allow us to make a 5-10 minute presentation on brownfields," said Rush. "Our goal is to have an informed and supportive community working collectively for the people of Williamsburg County."
For more information, contact Cassandra Williams Rush at (803) 397-1859 or Williamsburg County Grant Administrator Carlether Nesmith at (843) 355-9321, ext. 5201.