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Brownfields are parcels of land with any history of previous use that hinders their current or future development. Any real – or, importantly, any perceived – contamination from previous uses might affect how we can responsibly use lands. The operation of an oil tank farm, despite the visible steps taken to limit the effects of any spill, has undoubtedly long affected the perception of White Park.
In the late 1980’s, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) and the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) formally recognized White Park as a brownfield after receiving citizen complaints at a few previous tank sites within White Park. Since then, in their assessment and associated cleanups of periodic complaints at specific tank sites, the WVDEP and the USEPA have worked directly with oil companies responsible for the previous use. This process has been piecemeal and reactionary in nature, limited to areas that were identified by complaints and with nearly no involvement of the City or BOPARC.
The WVDEP created the VRP in 1996 to encourage redevelopment of existing sites rather than development of pristine land. Going through the VRP will enable the city to do a complete assessment of White Park, clean up any identified contamination or areas of concern, and develop plans that will guide all future activity on the site. Completion of the program will ensure any clean up of White Park follows the latest state and federal health and environmental regulations, with activities led by Licensed Remediation Specialists overseen by the WVDEP.
You can learn more about the program on the WVDEP’s website.
While Pennzoil/Quaker State, a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell, remains the chief responsible party due to its acquisition of the Eureka Pipeline Company and its liabilities, the City of Morgantown recognizes its role as the landowner. With updated regulations, new frameworks to conduct assessments and cleanups, increases in funding on the horizon, and a mandate from citizen requests to invest in White Park, we want to ensure this historical issue is dealt with in a comprehensive, cooperative, and timely manner. Entering the VRP now, as the primary applicant, will allow us to direct what happens to this immensely important recreational asset. Keeping decision-making power local will ensure that White Park’s future is based on our communal vision.
Discussions between Shell and the City of Morgantown are ongoing. Shell will be held accountable for any cleanup required at White Park that is associated with their inherited liabilities.
The cost is still being determined, but the initial assessment is expected to be funded through a combination of grants and $50,000 of City funds that have already been allocated to the project.
The drinking water reservoir in White Park was constructed in 1958 and has provided a portion of our source water ever since. Municipal drinking water is heavily processed and is monitored extensively for its potential to impact human health. The Morgantown Utility Board has decades of testing showing that the quality of the water sourced from the reservoir is some of the cleanest in the state. Testing of the reservoir has not indicated any contamination from the oil tanks. Unless future testing indicates potential contamination there are no immediate plans by the City to include the reservoir in the VRP process.
Over the past few decades, federal and state regulatory agencies have tested portions of the site for various contaminants of concern. Although these investigations did require certain, limited cleanup activities, nothing has been found that has prompted immediate enforcement action and modification of current uses.
It is important to note that previous assessments were judged against risk levels set for residential use. Since the most recent cleanup in 2010, new regulations have set recreational risk levels that account for the differences between these land uses and their associated risks. In short, there is nothing that has led us or any regulators to believe that excessive hazards currently exist.
The City anticipates entering the VRP in the Summer of 2022 and expects to complete the program within a three-year period. During that time, the City will develop and build a master trail plan for White Park that will expand and formalize the current trail system.
The Southside Trail will be constructed within the next year along the southern boundary of the Cobun Reservoir. The trail is part of an agreement with MUB to expand the trail network in White Park following the installation of the raw water pipeline. The Southside Trail is a pilot for how trail construction serves to clean up a landscape with limited areas of contamination while enhancing recreational activities.
The City is being proactive with property that is within the jurisdiction of the City.
The City of Morgantown will coordinate with WVDEP to hold workshops that will assist property owners in determining what steps they can take to determine potential contamination on their property. Once those workshops are scheduled they will be posted on this website and shared to those interested. You can sign-up to receive notifications for events and more from the city on our notify me page here.