Kickoff Meeting for the Frank Tannery DEP Clean-up Project

On Thursday, January 18th, the Pocahontas County Commission held a special session which was the first public meeting regarding the WV Department of the Environment (DEP) Brownfields Clean-up Grant at a portion of the county-owned Frank Tannery site in Frank, WV.  The commissioners had earlier awarded the remediation and assessment contract to the Greenbrier Environmental Group, Inc. of Lewisburg, WV.

Present at the meeting were Amy Truesdale of the Greenbrier Valley Economic Development Corporation, which is the county’s designated economic development agency, Audrey Sampson, the Vice-President of the Greenbrier Environmental Group, and Matt Ford also of the Greenbrier Environmental Group.

The clean-up grant is designed to ensure that the groundwater pollutants that were discharged on the property when Howes Tannery was in operation, are cleaned up so that the property can be used for another industrial purpose.

Howes Tannery, which closed in 1994 was at one time the largest producer of shoe sole leather in the United States. Unfortunately, the process of using tannic acid, which was produced from the bark of trees, to tan animal skins, also produced pollutants which infiltrated the groundwater and streams on the site.

In addition to cleaning and future monitoring of the groundwater using monitoring wells, the grant mandates the removal of asbestos from 3 or 4 buildings at the site which the commission plans to demolish. The people from the Greenbrier Environmental group asked the commissioners exactly which buildings the commission intend to demolish. Commission President Walt Helmick mentioned three dilapidated and unused buildings which he said were “not controversial” plus one building that could be controversial -the old tannery office building. A number of mostly ex-Howes Tannery employees had in the past opposed the demolition of that office building. Helmick said since the building serves no purpose and would require expensive repairs because a leaky roof had damaged part of the interior, he sees its demolition as the most likely and practical thing to do. The Upper Pocahontas Community Co-op, had attempted to find a use for the building several years ago, but they were unable to find any.

Helmick also said that when the county purchased the property from Howes Leather, that company, which had placed several groundwater monitoring wells there, agreed to be responsible for monitoring the groundwater, however Howes Leather Company has long since gone out of business.

Sampson said that as part of the clean-up grant, the site would be placed in the DEP’s Voluntary Remediation Program (VEP) which will require that the site be cleaned up and then new groundwater testing wells be drilled which will have to be monitored for groundwater pollution for three years. Once the remediation plan is complete, the DEP will permit industrial, but not residential use of the property. She said that any fill dirt brought onto the site as part of the clean-up remediation will also have to be tested for pollutants.

The commission hopes to find a suitable business to use the remediated property in the future.

Helmick says he would like in the near future to meet with Greenbrier Environmental staff at the site to go over the location with them.

Story By

Tim Walker

Tim is the WVMR News Reporter. Tim is a native of Maryland who started coming to Pocahontas County in the 1970’s as a caver. He bought land on Droop Mountain off Jacox Road in 1976 and built a small house there in the early 80’s. While still working in Maryland, Tim spent much time at his place which is located on the Friars Hole Cave Preserve. Retiring in 2011 as a Lieutenant with the Anne Arundel County Police Department in Maryland, Tim finally took the plunge and moved from Maryland to his real home on Droop Mountain. He began working as the Pocahontas County Reporter for Allegheny Mountain Radio in January of 2015.

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