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Spokane receives grant for cleanup near campus

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Posted: Wednesday, March 17, 2010 9:00 pm

The Washington State Department of Ecology announced this month that Spokane will receive a $200,000 state grant to facilitate the cleanup of a city-owned, 27.7-acre plot, hoping to stimulate future economic growth at the site.

The site, located at the intersection of Nevada and North Foothills, is approximately six blocks north of Gonzaga's campus. Spokane's Water Department administrative offices and fleet services, as well as Solid Waste Management Department's refuse truck parking, are currently located at the site.

In a statement released by the Department of Ecology, Spokane Mayor Mary Verner addressed the grant by saying, "With Ecology's assistance, we will help ready this site for future uses that will enhance the neighborhood and create jobs. This grant provides us with an opportunity to enhance our community health and vitality for the future."

Marlene Feist, the Public Affairs Officer for the city of Spokane, commented on short-term plans for the site.

"We have no immediate plans to move (existing facilities) off of this site. When we originally applied for this grant more than 18 months ago, we believed it might be possible to move off of this site sooner, but we are now looking at five to 10 years before we might be able to make that move. Ultimately, it is envisioned that the City services that are located at the site would move to what we call the Operations Complex site in the Chief Garry neighborhood, opening up this site for economic development," Feist said.

Feist said Spokane will use the funds to conduct a cultural review that complies with all applicable state and local regulations, prepare a conceptual site design, study the site's current environmental condition and complete a financial feasibility study.

City officials feel this site's location is prime for economic development.

"This is a favorable site for business development because it is fairly large and located at a prime intersection close to the core," Feist said. "We believe it would be better to have this site on the tax roles as a business/corporate location to provide jobs."

Before the site can be redeveloped, the city has to address any environmental issues, such as potential soil contamination from petroleum products used at the site, according to the Department of Ecology.

Seth Preston, spokesman for Ecology's Toxics Cleanup Program, discussed the impact of the present usage of the site.

"Past testing has shown contamination at several locations around the property," Preston said. "This contamination generally comes from petroleum and related products. The site previously was the home of lumber mills and has been used by the city for maintenance, vehicle storage, etc., which would explain the presence of such contamination. That's not unusual. Many sites throughout Washington are contaminated with petroleum-related products from past uses of the properties, such as gas stations."

Preston said the City's planning effort would include new testing of contamination to get a better idea of the site's current conditions.

"This grant is for planning purposes; it won't pay to physically clean up the site," he said. "But it will help the City to put together a plan for how it wants to deal with contamination there and eventually redevelop the site to benefit the Spokane community. In that sense, the project ultimately could have some very real and positive impacts on the entire city."

According to the statement made by Department of Ecology regarding the new grant, "the Washington Legislature authorized Ecology to provide money for studies needed to create new strategies for cleaning up and revitalizing contaminated properties. In response, Ecology started the integrated planning grants as a pilot program. The grants, funded by the state's voter-approved tax on hazardous substances, not by the state's general fund, help local governments to investigate and clean up publicly owned sites."

"We're happy to provide this grant because it ultimately will help address two of the Toxic Cleanup Program's top priorities," Preston said. "Cleaning up environmental contamination, and putting cleaned up properties to use in ways that benefit the community."

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