CURWENSVILLE – At a press conference yesterday, the Clearfield County Economic Development Corp. (CCEDC) officially assumed the title to the former Howe’s Leather Tannery site and accepted the residual waste impoundment closure bid that was submitted by Earthmovers Unlimited Inc.
The Howe’s Leather Company was a leather tannery; it operated from approximately 1900 until 2003. The 26.5-acre site neighbors the West Branch of the Susquehanna River, is zoned for industrial use and consists of multiple land parcels, according to Robert A. Swales, CCEDC chief executive officer.
There have been numerous environmental site assessments administered in recent years in partnership with Howe’s Leather Liquidating Trust and the CCEDC. A comprehensive bid package to remediate the hazardous and residual waste concerns was compiled by Civil Environmental Consultants (CEC) and placed for public bid in December of 2013, he said.
Swales said that multiple environmental site assessment tasks have been performed in pursuit of assembling a buyer/seller agreement and to outline a plan for obtaining Act 2 Relief of Liability. The environmental assessment data, he said, has been performed by DMS Environmental Services LLC (DMSE) of Curwensville.
Multiple areas of concern have been established based upon the analysis of DMSE in partnership with the CEC. These areas of concern have been compiled and contained in Phase I/II Environmental Site Assessment documents and CEC’s public bid proposal, said Swales.
In December of 2013, nine companies expressed interest in bidding on the Brownfield remediation project. However, only two bids were received on the bid due date, Feb. 14; both bids were within budget of the project, said Swales.
According to him, Earthmovers Unlimited Inc. of Kylertown is the low bidder in the amount of $1,219,283. The company, he said, is qualified to administer the demolition of the tannery infrastructure and removal of residual waste material.
Additional Phase II Environmental work to be conducted by DMSE will continue to be administered at the site in pursuit of Act 2 Relief of Liability. This will certify the site free of environmental liability for future businesses that may reuse the land, said Swales.
In 2012, the CCEDC received a grant for the remediation project at the Howe’s Leather Tannery site during the Pennsylvania Brownfields conference in Pittsburgh. Out of three projects, the CCEDC was chosen as the recipient of the $1 million grant.
The remediation project, Swales said, will unfold over the next six months. Mobilization and site preparation will occur in May; sludge excavation from June through August; sludge placement and mine reclamation from August through September; the former tannery demolition, also from August through September; and sludge lagoon impoundment restoration from June through September.
Swales also outlined numerous benefits to the Brownfield remediation project.
- The removal of approximately 36,000 tons of geotextile and sludge material will remove nitrates from infiltrating into the Susquehanna River.
- The sludge material is a nitrogen rich byproduct of the vegetable-based tanning process and a high-grade fertilizer used to mitigate acid mine drainage projects. The sludge lagoon material will be used at local mining sites for mitigation purposes.
- The existing concrete foundations and exposed rebar are a two-fold safety concern. High walls and steep drop-offs are retaining stagnant water. This is not only a potential home to foster mosquito infestation (West Nile virus), but it’s also a major safety issue. By removing all the concrete high walls and pits, it will prevent personal injury and accidental drowning.
- The concrete debris will be ground to specifications and used as base-fill material at the lagoon site as backfill.
- This project will clean up three, different sites of environmental and safety concern while replenishing 26.5 acres suitable for commercial and industrial development for the Curwensville community.
- Upon completion of the industrial park, it’s been estimated that six to eight parcels of land will be subdivided and will provide opportunities to sustain 5,000- 20,000-square foot business facilities.
- Based upon this analysis, conservative figures show new business development on the sites will not only create additional jobs in Curwensville, it will also increase local real estate tax revenues by at least $120,000 in total for the county, local and school district.
“It’s a Brownfield project and one the DEP has been and will continue to support,” said Dan Vilello, local government liaison for the north-central region of the state Department of Environmental Protection. “It’s the perfect project for the reuse of underutilized land.”
The CCEDC is a private non-profit, membership organization serving the business and industry of Clearfield County to promote job creation, job retention and to diversify and enhance the economic base of Clearfield County.
All photographs by Jessica Shirey
Video provided by the Pennsylvania DEP.