Gloversville to receive cleanup grant for brownfield

GLOVERSVILLE — The city will receive a $192,000 state grant to clean up the former Pan American Tannery brownfield site on West Fulton Street, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced in a press release on Wednesday.

The city is one of four municipalities, including Syracuse, Clay and Cortland, receiving a total of $4.8 million in grants through the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s Environmental Restoration Program to clean up contaminated sites targeted for redevelopment.

“New York continues to be a leader in making strategic investments that not only protect the environment but also revitalize communities and create jobs at the same time,” Cuomo said in a prepared statement. “With these grants, we can help municipalities clean up decades-old contamination and ultimately move forward on redeveloping sites, bolstering local economies and contributing to the area’s revitalization.”

The Environmental Restoration Program was created in 1996 to provide grants to reimburse the cost of cleaning municipally owned brownfield properties to promote redevelopment, but the funding program was exhausted by 2009. Cuomo has since reestablished funding for the program to provide up to $10 million a year to investigate and clean up brownfield sites across the state.

The grant awards announced on Wednesday are the first recipients of the reestablished funding that covers 90 percent of project costs with municipalities responsible for a 10 percent share.

The Pan American Tannery site at 312 W. Fulton St. was acquired by the city through tax foreclosure and entered into the Environmental Restoration Program in 2002 to investigate whether the operation of the former tannery from 1912 until the mid-1990s had contaminated the abandoned 4.8 acre site.

The DEC and state Department of Health conducted a remedial investigation of the site and selected a plan in a record of decision issued in March 2013. The $192,000 grant awarded to the city will be used to implement the remedial plan to protect public health and the environment by addressing soil and groundwater found to be contaminated by polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds and metals such as arsenic and copper.

Remedial work will include the installation of a soil cover and the implementation of a site management plan to monitor the site and institutional controls limiting future land use to commercial or industrial purposes through an environmental easement. The DEC estimated the time needed to implement the remediation plan at two months.

Soil covers currently exist on portions of the site in the form of paved access roads and existing building foundations on-site. These existing covers will be maintained and additional covers will be applied to all remaining exposed surface soil.

Mayor Vincent DeSantis said the city applied for the grant funds and was informed the Pan American site was selected as a recipient in 2018, but was pleasantly surprised on Wednesday to learn the funds are now being released by the state.

“Now the funds will be disbursed,” DeSantis said Wednesday. “I’m really pleased to see it was included in the budget.”

DeSantis indicated that the brownfield site was selected by the state to receive the grant funds due in part to the amount of remediation work already completed by the city Department of Public Works since it was acquired by the city in 2002, including the replacement of soil on-site.

DeSantis said remediation will likely continue to be performed by the city department, but further discussion among city officials will be needed to make a final decision and to set a timeline. The city currently uses the former tannery site to store materials used by the DPW and while no future plans for the city owned property have yet been made, DeSantis said he is looking forward to completing the clean-up of the site located in a residential neighborhood.

“It’s nice to be able to accomplish these things, it really makes a difference to people in these neighborhoods. One of the things about these old industrial cities is so many of them are in residential neighborhoods,” DeSantis said noting that in the past neighborhoods sprang up around factories to accommodate workers.

“To remediate these things is a tremendous improvement to the quality of these neighborhoods, they really stand in the way of establishing and building a new and more sustainable and more attractive community,” he said. “I think it’s fantastic.”