EPA Grants helping fund cleanup of Pelzer mill sites

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Through Anderson County, Pelzer Heritage

By David Meade

The Pelzer Heritage Commission and Anderson County are in the process of obtaining grant funding for another cleanup project at the Pelzer Mill properties. If approved, the project will be funded with a loan from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and administered by the Catawba Council of Governments.

The Pelzer project will receive a $250,000 loan, with a thirty per cent forgiveness feature, meaning that only $175,000 will have to be repaid. That repayment will come from the County general fund, with no cost to the Town of Pelzer or the Pelzer Heritage Commission, according to County Planning Director Michael Forman.

The Pelzer Heritage Commission (PHC) is a non-profit organization that is now responsible for the former mill sites. The application for the funds was submitted last week, and an answer should be forthcoming within a month.

The Anderson County Planning Department is preparing to issue the requests for qualifications (RFQ) needed to award the contracts. The RFQs, or bids, for the cleanup work will be solicited in June, and Forman anticipates an early July start, with about a month slated for the Pelzer project.

Forman indicated that the project, assuming no major obstacles, should be complete by the end of summer.

The Pelzer project will focus on the lower mill property, according to Pelzer Heritage Commission Vice President Larry Coker. Coker is also the Chairman of Pelzer Mills Properties LLC which was organized as the entity that took ownership of the Pelzer Mill properties.

The lower mill site encompasses 23 acres and has some contamination that will be addressed in the project.

The cleanup will bring the site to a federal standard of safety that will allow for any type development except residential, according to Forman.

During a community meeting held last Thursday at the Pelzer Community Building, Coker talked about the latest cleanup grant and several other grant funded cleanup projects that have been awarded to the Pelzer Heritage Commission.

“We are trying to get the community bought in to what we are trying to do,” Coker said during the meeting. “We are trying to get it (the mill property) cleaned up. We are saving it for the people of Pelzer.”

The Pelzer Heritage Commisssion (PHC) also received a $60,000 grant through the County to remove asbestos and lead paint from the old office building located on the lower mill site.

Coker said, once cleaned up and renovated, the 4200 sq. ft. building could be used for some type of community building, possibly a museum.

He said the big warehouse building that is still standing on the lower mill property will not be torn down, and that it could be used for some type of marketplace.

Last year the PHC also received two EPA Brownsfields grants totaling $400,000 to help redevelop former contaminated industrial sites. The two EPA grants will be for cleanup of the former Pelzer Mill dump site on the Saluda River.

$200,000 will be for the former Pelzer Mill Dump – Eastern Parcel Overlook Park and $200,000 for cleanup of the former Pelzer Mill Dump Western Parcel. Work at the site is expected to begin mid year, Coker said.

Hwy 20 bridgeres

The Pelzer grants stand out from others because Anderson County is looking to create a kayaking and canoeing river trail that will pass through the closed industrial dump site. PHC, with help from Anderson County, also plans to turn the site into a river Overlook park.

The site is adjacent to the Timmerman fishing and launch facility on the Saluda River.

Pelzer Heritage is also partnering with Anderson County for grant funding and blight removal through the S.C. Housing Neighborhood Initiative Program (NIP).

The NIP is designed to help stabilize property values and prevent future foreclosures for existing property owners in strategically targeted areas through the removal of blighted structures. The Pelzer Heritage Commission will be working with Anderson County on the NIP as a non-profit partner.

Anderson County received approval for up to $2,496,284 in funding from the NIP.

Funds will be used to demolish and green substandard and blighted residential properties in eleven target areas throughout the County including Pelzer.

Coker said representatives from the Department of Commerce and SC Parks, Recreation and Tourism, (SCPRT) that recently provided information to the PHC and town officials said, “Pelzer could be a great little town to visit.”

He explained that a key to getting additional grants for improving Pelzer is having a Master Plan, which he said he hopes the Pelzer Heritage Commission and the Town of Pelzer can work together on.

“We are going to do what we can to save that property,” Coker said. “This town has a future.”

Palletsres

One of the biggest problems facing the PHC, and the most visible is the removal of wooden pallets from the lower mill site. Coker said they are working with the County for a solution to the pallet problem which is the result of a pallet company leaving thousands of pallets at the site when they moved their business from the property.

The EPA grants cannot be used for removal of the pallets, Coker said. PHC and Anderson County officials are looking at options to have the hazard removed.