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Trafford awaiting cleanup proceedings at former Westinghouse site

| Monday, May 14, 2012, 9:23 a.m.

Plans for a multiuse recreational facility on part of a 117-acre tract housing the former Westinghouse Electric Corp. have been well received by CBS-Viacom officials.

Now, Trafford officials are patiently waiting for cleanup of a tainted 22-acre site to begin so funding sources can be pursued. But alas, the wheels of government move slowly.

'Initially, the remediation was supposed to start in June. Now I think they are waiting for the foliage to thin so they can start this fall or next year. Government moves slowly. You just have to have a lot of patience,' said planning commission member Les Race.

The planning commission and borough council have both expressed commitment to the development of a multiuse recreation area on the former industrial site, which was used as a ball field through the 1970s.

However, environmental testing performed back in the early 1980s revealed the ground was tainted with polychloride byphenal, or PCB, a byproduct of circuit manufacturing by Westinghouse. This byproduct of manufacturing, contained in fill dumped at the site decades ago, has been deemed a possible carcinogen.

The state Department of Environmental Protection targeted the area for remediation and initiated plans for a cleanup of the property under the state Land Recycling Act.

In June 2000, DEP officials came to Trafford to discuss the process and the possibilities for the property. Since then, the state contracted Cummings-Riter Engineering Consultants of Monroeville to perform the remediation of the property, but the plans for this process have not yet been completed for DEP inspection.

In early January, council notified CBS Viacom it was interested in using the tract for recreation. As part of the deal, CBS-Viacom would maintain ownership of the land, but the borough would agree to provide any maintenance.

Borough officials learned the cleanup of the property would entail laying a permeable membrane over the area and topping it with 2 feet of soil. Nothing is permitted to break the 2-foot barrier, so development would be minimal and well-suited for recreation.

In February, it granted the planning commission permission to serve as borough liaison on the project.

Race worked with borough engineer Vince Seyko on plans for the tract and presented council with a drawing in March. The plans, approved tentatively by CBS-Viacom recently, include four ball fields, two soccer or football fields, four basketball courts, a deck hockey court and two buildings for restrooms and concession stands.

CBS-Viacom also agreed to include the borough in any infrastructure work on the site, which has close access to both water and sewage lines.

Race said he is awaiting official, written confirmation from CBS-Viacom on the plan approval to begin steps toward securing grant money to develop the site.

'What we're working on now is whether there is money available from grants for the use of brownfields. This is a big issue ... making brownfields usable. There could be federal and state money for development of these areas,' he said.

A brownfield is a term used to describe contaminated property.

'Look at Homestead and all the development that's gone on there on the waterfront. That was brownfields,' he said.

Race noted a lot of private money was pumped into the Allegheny community from commercial developments like movie theaters, stores and restaurants. But this will not be the case in Trafford.

He hopes state and federal officials will look at this attempt to revitalize a brownfield as a worthwhile project and see fit to provide funding for its development and completion.

'This is a service for our youth. We'll all be able to use it. There are no soccer fields between Trafford and Claridge and that's a long way to go. This will improve the community aesthetically if we are able to use this as a surface recreation area. It will be a plus for the community and for the environment,' he said.

Another avenue the borough may pursue in its quest for funding is presenting the project to the new circuit rider director of the Penn-Trafford Area Recreation Commission. The commission is currently in the midst of interviewing candidates for the new position, which will serve Trafford, Penn Township, Manor, Penn and the Penn-Trafford School District.

In addition to the 22-acre tract, Race said the borough is seeking separate funding to develop a walking trail from the B-Y Park to South Trafford, which includes the use of CBS-Viacom property.

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