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Potentially contaminated sites could still be good for ballpark construction

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — According to experts, there are currently 80 to 90 potentially contaminated properties in the Wilmington area, also known as brownfield sites. The City of Wilmington held a public informational meeting Tuesday night on its Brownfields Assessment Project. Two of the properties are being considered by the city to build a minor league ballpark on the land.

City Councilman Kevin O’Grady says he feels pretty comfortable that the considered ballpark sites will work out, even with the environmental issues.

According to the city’s website, brownfield sites include, but are not limited to sites contaminated by controlled hazardous substances and sites contaminated by petroleum or a petroleum product. For more than a century, much of the area was used for shipping. Much of what was stored there ended up leaking into the ground.

The old Almont property, which is now owned by Chuck Schoninger and located along the downtown riverfront, has been defined as a brownfield site since 2008 and is being considered by the city to build a minor league ballpark on the land. Council approved an agreement between Mandalay Baseball and the Atlanta Braves to build the stadium last week. According to Sam Watson, the Wilmington Brownfields program manager, the land has been in the process of redevelopment for a while and all contaminants have been identified.

“There’s been soil testing, ground water testing, sediment testing in the water, surface water testing,” Watson explains.

He says the property is completely safe to build a baseball stadium.

“Because it’s a Brownfields site, it’s a beneficial site to choose,” Watson says. “It’s already pre approved for a ballpark.”

As far as cost goes, Watson says because it is a brownfield site, the city would have liability protection for cleanup. Councilman O’Grady says clean up costs are already built into the $6 million allotted for acquiring the land to build the ballpark, but also admits there are no certainties that it will be enough to cover all costs.

WWAY also reached out to Councilwoman Laura Padgett for comment. Padgett was the only council member to vote against approving the ballpark agreement. She did not return our call.

Last year the city received $400,000 from an EPA Brownfields Assessment Grant, $200,000 for Hazardous substance sites assessment and $200,000 for petroleum contaminated sites.

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