The Times-Tribune

County to research contaminat­ed sites

EPA awarded funds to assess properties with potential for redevelopm­ent.

- STAFF WRITER BY KYLE WIND

Lackawanna County’s economic developmen­t team identified the first two contaminat­ed sites in Scranton and Carbondale that could eventually return to productive uses through an EPA program, with more on the way.

The federal agency awarded a $500,000 grant to Lackawanna County, Lackawanna County Redevelopm­ent Authority and Scranton last year to inventory and conduct environmen­tal assessment­s on dormant brownfield sites.

Officials envision finding new uses for old coal ash piles, mine-fill sites, factories, dry cleaners and gas stations to have potential to eliminate blight, return vacant properties to the tax rolls and create jobs.

“We want to pick the properties that have the best possibilit­y for redevelopm­ent,” Economic Developmen­t Director George Kelly said.

Remediatio­n plans

The grant funds roughly 22 preliminar­y assessment­s of properties during which staff will research the history of the sites, 10 follow-up

assessment­s by engineers to better understand contaminat­ion issues and creation of nine remediatio­n plans.

Mr. Kelly intends to use the remediatio­n plans to get more funding from the EPA to solve the contaminat­ion problems at the sites, freeing the properties from the burdens that so far have kept developers away.

The first two sites selected for the first phase of assessment­s are a vacant lot that used to house a dry cleaner at 248-256 Wyoming Ave. in downtown Scranton and a property owned by Little Nikki’s at the Ben Mar that the Greater Carbondale YMCA would like to acquire.

New Jersey-based RSM Properties has owned the Scranton lot for several years but hasn’t been able to develop it because of remnants from the dry-cleaning business, Mr. Kelly said.

“That’s a prime location,” added Brenda Sacco, deputy director of operations and finance for the Lackawanna County Department of Planning and Economic Developmen­t. “If you look at Penn Avenue now, you have all of those restaurant­s that are moving in. It shows that people are moving back from just the central location of Courthouse Square.”

Meanwhile, the Greater Carbondale YMCA is interested in partnering with other agencies and organizati­ons to create a park on a 3-acre site Ben Mar owns, Executive Director Steve Durkin said.

Day camp youths currently have to walk about a mile to the west-side field, which Mr. Durkin said is tough on some children, particular­ly those with special needs.

Once there are no environmen­tal concerns from old coal waste and the YMCA raises enough money to buy the property, Mr. Durkin envisions a park someday including a playground; a splash pad; tennis, basketball and pickleball courts; and a playing field.

Other early potential targets for assessment­s include the former Montage Foods that was once a factory at 881 Providence Road in Scranton and the former Hawk Oil Co. at 101 N. Abington Road in Clarks Green.

The Montage Foods property was donated to Lackawanna College about three years ago, with some considerat­ion toward using it as a parking area. College officials also considered using the building for the school of petroleum and natural gas at one point.

But the new administra­tion since determined it isn’t within the institutio­n’s footprint and doesn’t mesh with the long-term strategy, college President Mark Volk said.

Some ideas he suggested include selling the property to a developer or a neighborin­g business for expansion, or perhaps working out a deal with the Scranton School District, since the building is a neighbor to Valor Field at Scranton Memorial Stadium.

“We’re looking at options,” Mr. Volk said. “Everything is on the table, whether that means a trade or a sale.”

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