Eco-industrial park site taken off Superfund list

by Tori Hamby

Forsite Development is in the process of redeveloping land at 1701 Mount Holly Road, the site of a former dye manufacturing facility. (MIM file photo)

CHARLOTTE – Mountain Island’s ReVenture Park is ready to become the region’s first eco-industrial park, now that it’s no longer classified as hazardously polluted.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Feb. 1 that it removed the site of Mountain Island’s ReVenture Park from its Superfund National Priorities List of hazardously polluted sites. Clariant Corporation, which inherited the former dye manufacturing plant site with its purchase of Sodyeco Inc. in the mid-1980s, leases the contaminated half of the 667-acre site to ReVenture Park developer Forsite Development. Forsite Development, a commercial real estate firm that acquires industrial real estate for environmentally-friendly redevelopment, purchased the uncontaminated portion of the land last year.

“The partnership between government and the private sector, and a vision to bring about positive change for the community has resulted in the accomplishment of a great milestone for the site,” said Franklin E. Hill, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s superfund division director for the region. “The path to redevelopment has been established and it will lead to a productive community asset.”

The change means big things for the eco-industrial park’s future. ReVenutre Park spokeswoman Terri Bennett said Clariant Corporation officials can now apply for Brownfield status, which would allow smaller eco-businesses to move into the park without accepting liability for any of the contamination, a key component to Forsite’s vision.

The Brownfield title designates areas of former industrial activity with low levels of contamination, which means the government deems it safe for redevelopment. The site also could become eligible for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grants.

“From day one we recognized the potential of this property, and knew the contamination could be addressed,” said Tom McKittrick, Forsite Development president, in a news release. “These relics of our country’s great manufacturing past can be recycled to breathe new life into communities by creating economic development that produces green jobs, cleaner energy and alternative fuels.”

The clean-up process, however, remains far from finished, Bennett said. It may take more than lifetime, if ever, to clean up the mess left by the dye manufacturing plant responsible for the contamination. During the 1930s, before the days of tight environmental restrictions, the plant was known for turning the neighboring Catawba River different colors because of discharged dye.

“They have made a great deal of headway, but the contamination is significant,” Bennett said. “It is by no means close to being done. Even if there are trace chemicals found in the ground, they will continue to clean.”

The site has been listed on the National Priorities List since the Superfund program’s inception in 1983.

Forsite Development will be allowed to purchase the rest of the land from Clariant only after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency transfers contamination liability from Clariant to Forsite, which could take months, Bennett said.

Despite the work ahead, Forsite officials have said they hope that other dormant industrial sites could model their redevelopment after ReVenutre Park and that the redevelopment process could be repeated across the country. Plans for ReVenture Park include a waste-to-energy power plant, which will use a “gasification” process to convert non-recyclable trash into fuel, and more than 30,000-square-feet to house green businesses. Plans for the gasification plant depend on power negotiations with Duke Energy, which have reportedly stalled.

In December, ReVenture Park and Catawba Lands Conservancy, a local organization dedicated to protecting more than 11,000 acres of land in Mecklenburg and neighboring counties, announced a partnership to create a 175-acre conservation easement within the eco-industrial park. The easement will protect land on both sides of Long Creek and about 1.4 miles along the Catawba River, as well connect the Carolina Thread Trail to the U.S. National Whitewater Center.

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