July 30, 2008 — The territory has numerous contaminated brownfields but help to restore those areas is on the way, according to speakers at the Fifth Annual V.I. Brownfields Forum.
About 50 people attended the forum, held at the Westin Resort and Villas on St. John.
The Brownfields Revitalization and Environment Act wending its way through the Legislature encourages cleanup and redevelopment of contaminated sites through the Department of Planning and Natural Resources.
"The negligence of yesterday must be turned into a positive," said Sen. Neville James, who sponsored the legislation with Sen. Louis P. Hill.
DPNR is also working with a consultant, the Maguire Group, to identify 10 contaminated sites across the territory that can first be evaluated and then cleaned up with the help of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grants.
They will include areas on all three islands, James said. Possible sites include Sunday Market Square and the Renaissance site on St. Croix, areas in Bovoni, Sub Base and Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas and in Cruz Bay and Coral Bay on St. John.
Across the territory, brownfields include old gas stations, abandoned government buildings, print shops, hospitals, and more.
"Imagine what could possibly have gone into the ground," St. Thomas attorney Jennifer Jones said. She has a contract with DPNR to develop a "guidance document" for those interested in redeveloping brownfields.
Jones said the program will provide an opportunity for investors to buy contaminated land cheaply for redevelopment after it's cleaned up.
A brownfields assessment of the 10-acre Sunday Market Square site in Christiansted, owned by the Moravian Church and once home to the Legislature and a gas station, was announced at the forum. The assessment will determine what contaminants are in the ground.
"Probably lead and asbestos," said Clanicia Pelle, who heads the Brownfields and Hazardous Waste programs for DPNR.
The Moravian Church property sits in a once-blighted area that is in the midst of redevelopment.
Maguire's vice-president for land development, Tom Hevner, said his company started work on evaluating possible brownfields sites in May.
"We want to build a database of all buildings in the Virgin Islands that have contamination," he said.
Much of the forum focused on how to get grants to assess, clean up and redevelop areas considered brownfields. Additionally, regulations were discussed.
"You've got seven years to do the cleanup. Seven years, take it or leave it," Ramon Torres, who serves as the EPA's Region 2 Brownfields Coordinator, said.
Pelle asked that residents call her if they know of a possible brownfields site. Call Pelle at 773-1082.
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