Three Rivers Planning and Development District has received a $600,000 Brownfield Coalition Assessment Grant from the Environmental Protection Agency, some of which will be used to benefit Lee, Pontotoc and Union counties.
Specifically, money will be used to conduct assessments of property that is not being used, or cannot be developed or sold, because of suspected environmental contamination. Thirty percent of the grant must be spent in New Albany, Pontotoc and Tupelo, the coalition cities that are primary grant benefactors.
The remaining 70 percent can be spent in the eight counties served by Three Rivers: Calhoun, Chickasaw, Itawamba, Lafayette, Lee, Monroe, Pontotoc and Union.
There is no specific amount designated for any entity other than that projects in New Albany, Pontotoc and Tupelo must make up 30 percent of the total. The money will be allocated on what amounts to a first-come first served basis for eligible projects.
The goal is to clear these properties for sale and reuse in cases where property owners may not be financially able to do so.
Coordinators say this can lead to increased property values for the sites and surrounding areas, generate more local tax revenue, prevent urban sprawl through use of more central areas, and save on infrastructure costs by incorporating what’s already there.
Both privately owned and public lands are eligible for this assessment.
There are some conditions for eligibility, however.
The property must have development potential, there must be suspected contamination, the present owner must not be responsible for that contamination, and there has to be access to the property to be assessed.
If contamination is found, Three Rivers will apply for cleanup grant funds to mitigate environmental damage and secure a No Further Action ruling from EPA. This would allow sale or development of the property assuring no risk to the owner as it secures compliance with EPA regulations.
If Three Rivers cannot find cleanup funds, the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, the EPA, and environmental consulting team will work with the property owner to develop a mitigation strategy to contain contamination to the site itself and mitigate further damage. This would allow a Certificate of Completion letter.
Community participation is needed to help cull this inventory of sites and, if necessary, include overlooked sites the Brownfield Advisory Committee is unaware of.
The Three Rivers Planning and Development District Assessment Grant funding is community wide, meaning sites within the entire TRPDD area are eligible for assessment.
As noted, coalition partners are the City of New Albany, the City of Pontotoc, and the City of Tupelo, which serve as the target areas for assessment activities in addition to the larger Three Rivers Planning and Development District region as a whole, which includes Pontotoc, Lee, Monroe, Itawamba, Union, Lafayette, Calhoun, Chickasaw counties and their municipalities.
The project was awarded Aug. 4 and the project period is until Aug. 4, 2023 at which time all grant funds must be expended.
Those involved in the project have developed a priority list of properties that could be assessed in each county, but stress this list is not inclusive. They will be seeking comments and suggestions from the public as the project progresses.
The two projects initially chosen in Union County are the Carr Oil property at Glenfield where petroleum contamination is possible, and the seven acres where the farmers’ market has been held on the bank of the Tallahatchie River downtown.
Past uses of the river-adjacent property included an automotive dealership and mechanic shop, later a John Deere farming equipment sales and maintenance facility. With all traces of the structures removed, the area fell victim to use as an illegal dumping ground for waste tires, unwanted farming equipment and other trash and debris, forcing the city to expend funds to address the illegal dumping and increase police patrols of the area.
The farmers’ market site could see a variety of types of development and the Glenfield site happens to be where the intersection of West Bankhead Street and Glenfield Road could be widened. Due to its proximity to the industrial park, that intersection sees fairly heavy truck traffic and trucks often have difficulty making the turn onto or from Glenfield Road.
The property is currently delinquent on taxes and could be acquired by the city as part of their redevelopment plans given the site’s key location on the main travel corridor. The known groundwater contamination and potential for vapor intrusion remain a risk to neighboring residential and commercial property, and makes this site a priority target for assessment.
Other Union County sites mentioned included the former Federal Fertilizer plant on Hwy. 15 North, the parking lot behind Tallahatchie Gourmet that was once home to an auto dealer, and Riverside Furniture and Antiques on Highland (the assessment project also includes possible asbestos contamination).
The Pontotoc project listed initially is the former Pontotoc City Sanitary Landfill, which was used as a dumpsite prior to the Three Rivers site creation. It likely contains acetone and other chemicals, some of which came from the Ram Golf manufacturing plant. After decommissioning, the site converted ownership from the City to the previous owner who is financially unable to address the cost of further testing or cleanup.
The first Tupelo site listed was the former Block Corp. Textile Mill on Main Street. The former textile mill operation remained open for more than 50 years until the early 2000s and was partially demolished after tornado damage in 2012. There is concern that use, storage and disposal of dyes and chemicals from the textile operation may have led to off-site shallow groundwater contamination on the surrounding residential and light commercial properties.
Primary sites in target areas were determined in collaboration with each of the target area local government officials to identify sites most in need that also have development potential. A full inventory of sites was developed in conjunction with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, local officials, residents, PPM Consultants, and TRPDD examination of physical sites. It will be publicized later. Beyond the target sites, the remaining site selections will be heavily dependent on input from the community and from the Brownfields Advisory Committee.
The initial inventory includes more than 70 properties in the coalition area and larger Three Rivers footprint significantly impacted by industrial fluctuations, concentrated poverty, demonstrate the capacity to positively impact the largest number of community members, and have the greatest environmental health outcomes with remediation assistance.
The initial assessment would involve two phases. First would be a determination whether contamination is likely to exist and second would be actual sampling. Project coordinators hope the first phase could be done in December with the second phase in the spring.
In the culling of sites, grant funds are available for 10-15 hazardous substance and 10-15 petroleum Phase I environmental site assessments among coalition partners and the TRPDD region.
They anticipate that of these, there will be six to eight hazardous waste site Phase II ESAs with sampling, six to eight petroleum site Phase II ESAs, and five Analysis of Brownfields Cleanup Alternatives (ABCAs) that will help examine sites for remedial action planning. In addition, three community health assessments for the coalition partners will be conducted.
The New Albany Brownfields Advisory Committee had an introductory meeting Nov. 16 with subsequent meetings planned to be held quarterly. The first Tupelo meeting was Nov. 17 and the Pontotoc meeting was Nov. 18.
The meetings will be held in the three coalition cities if the COVID-19 situation allows, and via Zoom if in-person meetings are still considered a risk.
The next quarterly public meeting is planned for 3 p.m. Feb. 18, the same time and date for all three coalition cities. Meeting locations are:
Three Rivers Planning and Development District
75 South Main Street
Pontotoc, MS 38863
Union County Heritage Museum
114 Cleveland St.
New Albany, MS 38652
Downtown Tupelo Farmer’s Depot (weather permitting)
415 South Spring Street
Tupelo, MS 38804
All project-related materials and updated information can be found at the following physical and digital locations. Materials include monthly progress updates, responses to questions and comments, copies of Phase I and II ESAs and Cleanup Plans, and public notices for upcoming meetings will also be posted at these physical locations and with media outlets.
Three Rivers Planning and
75 South Main Street
Pontotoc, MS 38863
City of New Albany
101 West Bankhead
New Albany, MS 38652
City of Pontotoc
116 N. Main St.
Pontotoc, MS 38863
City of Tupelo
71 East Troy Street
Tupelo, MS 38804
The project manager is Jenny Savely, certified community developer with Three Rivers Planning and Development District.
assessment, assessments, environmental hazard, EPA, New Albany, Northeast Mississippi, Pontotoc, Three Rivers Planning and Development District, Tupelo