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Council Votes to Buy Former RB&W Site on Mogadore Road

Vacant former manufacturing site is in the midst of an Ohio EPA monitored cleanup

By the end of the year, Kent may be able to add another brownfield with redevelopment potential to the city's land bank.

Kent City Council voted Wednesday to buy the former RB&W site at 800 Mogadore Road from owner Thomas & Betts Corp., of Memphis, TN, for $1.

But there are a few asterisks on the deal.

The sale of the 17.7 acres to the city depends on if the city is successful in obtaining state money from the Clean Ohio Fund Brownfield Revitalization program to clean up some remaining contaminants in the property's soil.

The deadline for filing the Clean Ohio Fund application is July 18.

"We wouldn’t execute the purchase agreement without having the grant funds," Kent Economic Development Director Dan Smith said.  “It is a competitive process. It’s still not 100 percent."

For years, , various firms at 800 Mogadore Road used questionable oil management practices. Methods for containing oil used in the manufacturing processes there ranged from old railroad tank cars buried underground to open-air oil lagoons.

The result was severely contaminated soil and groundwater that the past few property owners have spent decades trying to clean.

Close to 30,000 tons of contaminated soil have been removed from the property as part of the recent demolition of the manufacturing plant. The , but recent data from groundwater test wells has shown . The containment system, an underground, clay slurry wall, that were intended to be forever sealed behind the wall.

The move to buy the former RB&W site comes a little more than two months after on Lake Street. The AMETEK deal was done to bring the firm's employees into downtown Kent as part of the city's redevelopment project. The city will pay $106,000 to inherit the AMETEK property and any contaminants at the complex, which has been a manufacturing center since the early 1900s. The city has already set aside $500,000 in addition to the purchase price to deal with any necessary brownfield remediation.

Kent Law Director Jim Silver said the RB&W property situation is very different from the AMETEK deal.

"We know a whole lot more about (the RB&W) property than we knew about the AMETEK property, and the comfort level is pretty good with the money that’s available for the cleanup process," Silver said. "So this one seems to be, knock on wood, pretty safe."

Smith said the RB&W deal also differs from the AMETEK deal because no jobs are being immediately retained or created.

"But at the same time, we haven’t put a lot of money out on this" RB&W deal, Smith said.

For decades, the EPA has tracked the cleanup efforts at the former RB&W site. Most recently, Mentor-based HzW Environmental Consultants have managed the remediation for Thomas & Betts. HzW President Matt Knecht gave Kent Patch a recent tour of the site and explained that, aside from the slurry wall issue, the only remaining cleanup issue is a spot near the south entrance where two, 10,000-gallon oil tanks once were buried underground.

That area has to undergo one more round of soil testing to make sure it complies with standards set by the Bureau of Underground Storage Tank Regulations, and then Thomas Betts Corp. can obtain a "no further action" letter  — essentially a "clean" bill of health document from the EPA — for that portion of the site.

"This is the last piece," Knecht said of the oil tank issue. "We don't expect any problems."

Once that area is addressed, the overall property is one step closer to getting a "covenant not to sue" letter from the EPA that would clear much of the property for sale and eventual redevelopment.

That's where the city comes in. If Kent is successful in getting Clean Ohio Fund grant money, the city can use the money — potentially up to $2 million — to examine and fix any problems with the slurry wall.

"There’s an awful lot of work to be done," Kent City Manager Dave Ruller said. "But the good news is the state seems to have funds available."

Knecht said the goal of Thomas & Betts Corp. all along has been to correctly address the remediation and return the site to productive use. The only portion of the land that cannot ever be disturbed is the 1.4-acre, capped area at the southern end where the slurry wall encloses several former open-air oil lagoons

Smith said the property has a lot of redevelopment potential varying from expansion of the or sale to a private company for redevelopment.

He credited Thomas & Betts Corp. for having spent as much as $2 million already cleaning the site. That money already spent can be credited as local match money for the Clean Ohio Fund grant.

"As we all know, traditional manufacturing wasn’t very sensitive to taking care of the environment," Smith said. "There’s still a lot that has to be done."

Smith said as part of the deal the city would never be fully responsible in any future legal issues should other environmental problems arise.

"I think it's a win-win in a lot of ways," Kent City Councilwoman Heidi Shaffer said.

Mark Chesler July 07, 2011 at 04:07 PM
...In a June 26, 1994, Cleveland Plain Dealer article entitled Environmentalists Leery of Possible Loopholes, Chris Trepal, co-director of the Earth Day Coalition in Northeast Ohio, lambasted the enabling VAP legislation as "one of the poorest public policy measures I’ve ever seen." A clairvoyant Richard Sahli, executive director of the Ohio Environmental Council, echoed his sentiment in the May 26, 1994, Cincinnati Post, "We do predict there will be a lot of shoddy cleanups under this bill the state will never catch." Testifying before the House Energy & Natural Resources Committee on behalf of the Ohio Academy of Trial Lawyers, Cincinnati environmental lawyer David Altman asserted, "This bill is a definite bait-and-switch. What it is supposed to do and what it does is two different things." A seminal, 152 page 2001 Gund Foundation funded study by the Green Environmental Council confirmed the critics’ predictions. A dearth of agency resources to provide meaningful regulatory oversight combined with the lack of a credible, established enforcement mechanism has rendered the feckless, industry aligned program toothless. "It’s a broken program - it doesn’t work," declared the council’s Bruce Cornett in an interview with the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Both the Sierra Club and Ohio Citizen Action opposed the 2000 $400 million Clean Ohio state bond issue out of concern the fungible... ouch.blog-city.com/sustainable_community_associates_tainted_titanic_wreck.htm
Mark Chesler July 07, 2011 at 04:31 PM
...proceeds could be utilized to prop up the lame Voluntary Action Program andcreate a trojan horse polluters slush fund. "This is the governor's attempt to whitewash his EPA," charged Jane Forrest Redfern, environmental projects director for Ohio Citizen Action in a November 1, 2000, Cleveland Plain Dealer article. Dedicated professionals, veteran Ohio EPA bureaucrats attempted to rectify the problem. According to the October 4, 2000, Cleveland Plain Dealer, "EPA staffers who shared some of the environmentalists’ concerns, at one point launched a quiet but unsuccessful campaign to disband the program." For six years after the Voluntary Action Program’s 1996 implementation, the U.S. EPA refused to extend program participants federal immunity and threatened to decertify the Ohio EPA due to the VAP’s expansive, inhibiting secrecy provisions and tangible lack of transparency. In a brokered, bifurcated modification to the Ohio VAP that "frankly doesn't make sense at all," according to Ohio Public Interest Research Group director Amy Simpson (Akron Beacon Journal, February 24, 2001), an alternative "memorandum of agreement" VAP track with enhanced public access was crafted. Companies that elect the original, opaque, "classic" option, which conceals under an embargo the extent and nature of contamination, will not be afforded U.S. EPA liability insulation... ouch.blog-city.com/sustainable_community_associates_tainted_titanic_wreck.htm
Mark Chesler July 07, 2011 at 04:41 PM
..."Why Ohio would want a two-headed monster is beyond me," quipped the Ohio Environmental Council’s Jack Shaner. In SCA’s case, the jaundiced, green and incompliant wants to hide what you can’t see. Mark Chesler Oberlin, Ohio ouch.blog-city.com/sustainable_community_associates_tainted_titanic_wreck.htm
Matt Knecht July 08, 2011 at 02:04 PM
I appreciate Mr. Chesler's comments. The only thing that I would point out is that the former RB&W site is in the more transparent Memorandum of Agreement Track under Ohio's VAP, and not the "opaque" classic VAP track.
Matt Knecht July 08, 2011 at 02:05 PM
Sorry, I should also mention that the former RB&W site has been in the VAP Memorandum of Agreement track since 2005. Entry into what we call the VAP MOA Track is not a recent happening.
Matt Fredmonsky July 08, 2011 at 06:14 PM
Thanks for the clarification, Matt.
Karl R Liske November 20, 2011 at 12:26 AM
Thanks to all the "students" and "interpreters" for the excellent reporting on the convoluted history of the RB&W site and the efforts to achieve the required re-mediation. Freedom of information keeps us alert and vigilant! Karl Liske, Kent Environmental Council member.

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