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Petroleum contamination study grants available to Norwich property owners

Norwich — Over the past five years, the city has used a federal environmental assessment grant to study prominent properties, from the derelict YMCA on Main Street and the former American Legion in Laurel Hill to the former Hebrew school on Church Street.

With the end of the grant period looming and $35,879 remaining, Planning Director Deanna Rhodes is seeking commercial property owners interested in selling or redeveloping properties with potential petroleum contamination or old underground tanks that pre-date their ownership. The money must be spent by Sept. 30, the close of the current federal fiscal year.

The remaining money is in the petroleum portion of the original grant and can be used to do a phase 1 study, which includes document research on the history of uses for the property and assessments of whether underground tanks might be present and removing them if they pre-date the current property ownership.

“We’re looking for small-sized non-residential properties,” Rhodes said, “not big mill buildings. We’re willing to speak with anyone who did not put the tanks in the ground.”

For information on the program or to apply for a grant, contact the city planning office at (860) 823-3766.

There would be no cost to the property owner for the studies, tank assessment and removal.

Rhodes said phase 1 historical use studies cost about $3,500 per property and would be helpful to owners planning to sell their properties or submit proposals for reuse. The studies are good for 120 days and could be updated easily if no changes have occurred, she said.

The city received the original grant in 2016, with $185,000 dedicated to properties suspected to have petroleum contamination and $199,000 for properties suspected of having hazardous materials contamination.

The city Redevelopment Agency administered the grant, with environmental consulting firm, Tighe & Bond, conducting the work in partnership with Three Rivers Community College. Students in Professor Diba Khan-Bureau’s environmental engineering and technology program assisted in the studies.

“It’s been nice having them as a partner,” Rhodes said.

The grant money was used on properties throughout the city, including municipal, private and institutional projects. The city allocated $43,751 to assess potential building and grounds contamination on the Norwich portion of the former Norwich Hospital property; $20,000 to assess a building at the former Thermos mill complex for possible expansion of the Integrated Day Charter School; $13,500 for asbestos and concrete tests at the former Hebrew school for redevelopment as a brew pub and $37,500 to assess hazardous materials at the former YMCA on Main Street.

“This is kind of our last-ditch effort to utilize the remaining funds,” Rhodes said. “It’s not a whole lot of money, but we want to reach out to the public and see if there’s someone we can assist with the money.”

c.bessette@theday.com

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