You’ve heard me go on time and again about the importance of partners and cooperation, and on Wednesday, the 21st of September, we were delighted to welcome a contingent of our partners from the EPA into the Oil Heritage Region, to share our work with them and confirm that we are all rowing in the same direction. While the day started grey and rainy, by the time we all met up the skies had cleared, and we were able to tour multiple brownfield sites around our region without needing umbrellas or mud boots.
The EPA was visiting the entirety of northwest PA, and had been in Erie the day before, so Wednesday was our turn to share our piece of the regional puzzle in person, since this was the first time EPA representatives had been out our way in quite some time. It’s one thing to read about our vision in grant proposals and reports, and another to be on the ground, understanding how all the planning and projects tie together!
Of course, it couldn’t all be fun in the sun, tromping around project sites. We needed to review important paperwork, too, and we started our day at the ORA offices in Oil City, reviewing the progress we’ve made thanks to the EPA’s initial $300,000 investment in our area, and preparing to close out that grant a whole year in advance of the expected timeline. We still have a few final reports to submit, and that FY20 grant will be officially put to bed, so we also discussed the next steps for transitioning our ongoing and upcoming assessment works into the next grant. The EPA has updated several processes and procedures as of this round of funding, so we need to be sure we do everything by the book!
After the paperwork and logistical discussions were complete, it was time to put boots on the ground and show our EPA partners the sites they have been reading so much about for the last two years. First, we visited the Kraft/Dahlstrom site in Oil City, which is only a couple months into the first round of sampling and analysis. What used to be a mountainous landscape of tires, drums, and untold types of metal and plastic scrap, interspersed with the rusting, hulking forms of legacy scrap-processing equipment, is now a mostly level open field, the scrap hauled off to make sampling possible. It is still littered with crumbled scrap remnants, but there are also bright yellow monitoring well-heads visible, an indication of the ongoing sampling works. We showed our EPA partners our early visions for the site, and talked about the potential for the project to tie into the other redevelopment works ongoing in Oil City.
From there, and after a brief stop at the always-delicious Taco Shack for lunch, we made our way down Route 8 to explore the priority area identified for the next Community-Wide Assessment grant – the Reno/Sugarcreek area. A new market study focused on filling data gaps for the area will be one of our first priorities with this next grant, so we visited several sites along that stretch of Route 8. Our discussion centered on the desire for an overarching strategic plan for the area that will tie in efforts throughout the region and beyond, to play off our own strengths as well as our neighboring communities.
Then, we made our way to what I consider the most important ongoing project site in our region, the Fuchs and Quaker State properties in Emlenton. We commiserated over the vagaries of state budgets stalling our remediation works but looked forward to when we can jump into the clean-up in earnest and prepare the site for redevelopment. Having spent nearly two years hearing about the site, and having already given their blessing for the remediation planning we’ve done to date, the EPA representatives were happy to see the property in person and see the strategic importance of the project to the town and the region.
With that, we wrapped up our day, and our friends at the EPA made their way back east. We look forward to welcoming them again in another two or three years, with multiple remediation and redevelopment projects in full swing. If you’d like to learn more about partnerships like these, or about any of our project sites, please feel free to reach out!