On the first try and in a short time, the Western Nevada Development District landed a $600,000 EPA grant for assessment of contaminated areas, blighted buildings and old mine tailings in Pershing County. It was the only “Brownfields” grant awarded this year to a Nevada community.
Working with the county and city, WNDD will manage the inventory and assessment of petroleum-contaminated sites like old gas stations, abandoned buildings contaminated with lead paint and asbestos and “orphan” mine tailings contaminated with lead, mercury and other metals that threaten ground and surface water known to the government as “Brownfields.”
According to WNDD’s grant application letter, “up to 21 Phase I ESAs (environmental site assessments) are considered to be contaminated and up to 13 Phase II ESAs are contemplated to be completed- 10 for Hazardous Substance sites and 3 Petroleum.” Average assessment costs, for environmental consultants to assess contaminated sites, are $5,000 for Hazardous Substance sites and $15,000 for petroleum sites, according to the WNDD grant application.
In total, $412,000 of the grant is allocated for assessment of hazardous substance sites and $188,000 for petroleum-contaminated sites with a total of about 30 Brownfield sites targeted.
Sites on the radar for cleanup are divided into four “Target Areas” by WNDD: the Lovelock downtown corridor, the Lovelock Industrial Park, three Lovelock community gateways along the I-80 corridor and “mine scarred lands geographically scattered across the county.”
“Many of the Brownfields sites are within 2-4 blocks of the school facilities, the hospital, nursing homes, City and County buildings, the public pool, public health nurse, food bank and WIC offices,” states the WNDD letter to the EPA. “There are private residences interspersed in the Target Areas and other neighborhoods and homes are adjacent to the Brownfields sites.”
“Priority” gateway and downtown sites listed include Brenda’s Cafe Building owned by Blackrock Properties, rail property owned by Union Pacific, the former Rexall Pharmacy owned by Sylvia Kurzrock, Black Jack’s Garage owned by the Finley family, the Lions Club House owned by the Lovelock Lions Club and the Desert Haven Motel with the owner TBD (to be determined).
“The Downtown Corridor and entrances to the community from Interstate 80 has numerous buildings and vacant lots that are empty, blighted and suspected of contaminants such as lead based paint, petroleum, asbestos, solvents and other chemicals from laundromats, auto repair shops and wrecking yard,” states the WNDD application.
In the industrial area, sites on the radar include the Alfalfa Seed Building at 35 McDougal owned by Tolsa West Coast and RoMark at 450 Amherst owned by “Markham/Bingham.”
“The county industrial park was established in the 1990’s. It’s adjacent to the city limits with rail spurs to one site. Identified industrial sites would be assessed. Suspected contamination related to auto manufacturing, light industrial, farming and mining operations include petroleum, mine tailings, chemicals/solvents, lead, mercury, arsenic,” states the WNDD grant application.
Mine scarred areas targeted for cleanup include the Buff Mine near Pershing, Nevada and the Hilltop Mine near Imlay, Nevada where suspected contaminants include mercury, arsenic, lead and metals that are “potentially concentrated in orphan mine tailings and spoil poles.”
The assessment of contaminated and blighted areas should help spur economic growth, create new jobs, increase tax revenues and revitalize a struggling community according to a letter from Nevada Division of Environmental Protection Brownfields Program Manager David Friedman.
“The Brownfields Assessment Grants will level the financial playing field for investors who might otherwise choose other areas,” Friedman told the EPA in January. “With the recent economic growth enjoyed by Northern Nevada, Pershing County and Lovelock are well-positioned to become a location where businesses can locate, creating more jobs, retaining and increasing the workforce which will drive development of housing and spur the area’s economic growth.”
After sites are cleaned up, other grants are available for redevelopment according to WNDD.
“The City and County are well positioned to begin applying for funding relative to the reuse and redevelopment of the Brownfields sites,” states the application letter. “State of Nevada Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and United States Dept. of Agriculture Rural Development grants will be pursued to redevelop sites cleared for reuse.”
Lovelock Mayor Mike Giles confirmed there are abandoned fuel tanks along the old Highway 40 corridor and in the industrial area that may need to be cleaned up. However, he pointed out the EPA grant is for assessment only and there’s no guarantee when those funds will be available or if other grants will be awarded for cleanup. Competition is fierce for CDBG and USDA grants.
A Vetter PR, Inc. press release announcing the grant was accompanied by photos of a boarded-up apartment complex, the abandoned Desert Haven Motel and the Lovers Lock Plaza, a tourist attraction in the Pershing County Courthouse