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Great Lakes Article:


Pollution fails to hinder park plans
John C. Kuehner
The Plain Dealer
10/07/03


High levels of arsenic and a petroleum-based chemical contaminate the soil of industrial land along the Cuyahoga River channel that Cleveland wants to turn into a park.

But the pollution does not pose a major problem for the city's plan because it can be cleaned up.

"For a property with 90 years of industrial heritage, we found unremarkable contamination," said Craig Kasper, who heads Hull & Associates, which did an environmental study in 1995.

Researchers found limited, isolated areas on the 15-acre site contaminated with elevated levels of lead, chromium, arsenic and a petroleum-based compound that exceed the state's industrial and commercial standards.

In a deal with Cleveland, the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority will turn over nine acres at the western end of the property to the city and keep six acres, which it leases to Great Lakes Towing Co.

Samples from the nine-acre site showed elevated levels of arsenic and benzo(a)pyrene, a petroleum-based compound that's a carcinogen. Other chemicals were detected but in low concentrations. The site kept by the port is contaminated in two spots by lead, chromium and benzo(a)pyrene.

The environmental study was done for The Plain Dealer, which bought the land in 1965 as a possible site for a new building. The Plain Dealer sold the land in 1998 to the port for $2 million.

In 1980, a fire erupted in a building leased by a tenant that collected paints and other solvents. The U.S. EPA and Coast Guard spent nearly $444,000 to clean up the property. The federal government later recouped $385,000 from 18 companies, including The Plain Dealer.

The city's lakefront plan identifies the land as open space and would tie into Edgewater Park by a bike trail. The land would be linked to about 12 acres of adjacent city-owned land, creating a new 21-acre park.

"This is a property we cannot afford to pass up," City Planner Chris Ronayne said. "We're not daunted by the notion of cleanup."

The city has no cost estimate or timeline for cleanup. It would first need to do its own environment assessment.

The state has different criteria for cleaning up contaminated land, depending on its use. Standards are based on the risk of exposure through touching, breathing or eating contaminated soil.

Turning polluted land into a park would not necessarily require as extensive a cleanup as needed to build homes on it, said Amy Yersavich, manager of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency's Volunteer Action Program, the state's brownfield cleanup program.

Ronayne believes the city can apply for state and federal grants to clean up the site. One possible source is State Issue I, a voter-approved fund set up to provide $200 million for environmental projects.

"There are ample examples across the United States of converting brownfields like this into open space and parks," said Todd Davis, whose company, Hemisphere Corp. of Beachwood, redevelops brownfields. "It's undoubtedly doable in this case."

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