By David Meade
A public outreach meeting held at the Pelzer Community Building Tueday to present information on a grant application also included discussion on dilapidated houses, crime and annexation. The main focus of the meeting was for an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grant for cleanup work on a former dump site on the Pelzer Mills property.
Twenty-nine people attended the meeting including County Administrator Rusty Burns, House District 9 Representative Anne Thayer, Pelzer Mayor Steve McGregor, Pelzer Councilmember Cheryl Boudreau, members of the Pelzer Heritage Commission (PHC) and residents.
Gail Rawls Jeter, of Cardno, Inc. who is helping PHC with the grant application, said that the grant application is reinforced because there is a redevelopment plan in place which includes the vision of Anderson County for blueways and greenways including use of the Saluda River and improvements already made at nearby Timmerman Access. “I feel like we have a lot stronger application,” she said.
Jeter presented background information on previous work done on the property and on the grant application. Jeter has worked with local officials on the Brownsfield project since 2008.
The Town of Pelzer applied for and received a $200,000 brownfields hazardous assessment grant in 2010 which Jeter said provided a very thorough assessment of the environmental condition of the properties.
Funds from an Anderson County brownfields assessment grant money was also used for a Phase I ESA in 2011.
A Region IV Brownfields assessment completed in July 2011 on the dump sites showed contaminants including arsenic, lead paint and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) from burning of trash at the site, a common practice at the time.
The Pelzer Heritage Commission signed a Voluntary Cleanup Contract with SCDHEC in Nov. 2013 on the Pelzer Mills Properties including the two dump sites as well as the upper and lower mill sites.
The PHC acquired ownership of the properties in Dec. 2013.
The Pelzer Heritage Commission (PHC) applied for a Brownfields Cleanup Grant United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cleanup grant for the dump property last year but the application was not approved.
They are re-applying for two grants to conduct cleanup activities at the site now known as the Pelzer Mill Disposal Areas.
The site includes two parcels, 16.85-acres and 11.80-acres, located at Parker and Frost Streets at the former Upper Mill property in Pelzer.
The grant amounts being requested are $200,000 for each parcel, a total of $400,000.
PHC will request a waiver for the required match of $40,000 per grant, which Jeter said the group is likely to be granted if the grant is approved.
The cleanup work will be performed in accordance with one of three alternatives outlined in an Analysis of Brownfields Cleanup Alternatives (ABCA).
The three options in the ABCA include performing an expensive ($2.5 million) soil excavation; taking the top six inches of soil off and back filling with a two foot cover, estimated at $169,000 or not doing anything.
According to Jeter, the timeline for the grant process begins with the application deadline of Dec. 19. Announcements are usually made around May and money comes in about September.
Pelzer Heritage Commission (PHC) representative Larry Coker said an assessment will be performed on the old office building in January.
According to Jeter, funds for an EPA assessment for smaller projects has already been approved and will be used to evaluate the administration building at the lower mill property.
The building has to be reevaluated for asbestos and lead paint before any work can be done on it.
Another application will be made in the future for a grant to do an asbestos survey on rubble on the lower mill property. A pallet company is currently operating on a portion of the property which will need to be tested.
Jeter said paperwork on the building and lower mill property was incompete in the SCDHEC files and the former onwer (Greenlight Enterprises, LLC and Brickyard Trucking, Inc.) lost paperwork in a fire.
“It looks like he (the former owner) was taking the right steps to do asbestos abatement,” Jeter said.
An assessment will be done when the pallet company leaves the property, officials said.
Coker also said the PHC has applied to form a Historic District which will include 28 buildings and homes in Pelzer. He said the designation should be completed by March.
Gilbert Garrett gave an update on progress being made on annexation of properties into the Town of Pelzer and the possibilities along the river.
Pelzer Mayor Steve McGregor said that Pelzer is beginning a process that should have been started when the town was incorporated in 1952.
“When the mill village concept was started it worked perfectly,” he said. “But the mills are no longer here. What Pelzer needs is the here, now and future.”
McGregor said he and the current town council “have opened the door.” The town has accepted a number of petitions for annexation that have happened over the past year.
There was some discussion on demolition of dilapidated houses.
Rusty Burns said that Anderson County is placing money in a fund for a grant program to target concentrated areas with problems. He said the program is administered in conjunction with a non-profit group and that there is a possibility of using it in Pelzer.
The county is also addressing the issue with properties forfeited from a tax sale, he said.
Anyone interested in commenting on the grant application or cleanup of the dump sites is asked to contact the Town of Pelzer or Jeter for information.
Jeter can be reached by email at Gail.Jeter@Cardno.com or call (803) 929-6059.