By: Lanetra Bennett
April 17, 2014
St. Marks, FL - The site of an asphalt refinery that closed down nearly three decades ago, could become a booming redevelopment area.
Zoe Mansfield with the City of St. Marks, says, "It was a sad day when it closed."
The Former St. Marks Refinery closed in 1985. But, thanks to a sub-grant from the City of Tallahassee, St. Marks plans to turn the approximately 22-acre site back to a place of prosperity.
Local officials held a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday to celebrate the start of cleanup, construction, and redevelopment.
Environmental Consultant Roger Register, the Branch Manager for Cardno, says a previous $400,000 grant allowed St. Marks to remove eleven above ground storage tanks left from the refinery, and more than 100,000 gallons of asphalt material.
Register says, "Also, the thousands of tons of recycled steel from the tanks, we were able to receive funding for those by recycling the steel material, instead of just using it as waste product."
Mansfield says the old refinery employed 127 people She says, "It was like a little gold mine. It was the only refinery in the state of Florida."
Officials hope to attract businesses once redevelopment of the property is complete.
St. Marks City Mayor Allen Hobbs, says, "That's our problem in St. Marks now is there's nothing here to keep the people here. There's no employment available. As soon as the kids graduate school or get married, they're gone. If we can get something in here that will entice them to stay, that's our goal."
Officials say the sub-grant from Tallahassee will allow St. Marks to put top soil on previously contaminated areas, and two feet of material to be able to build on the site.
The project is expected to be completed in 2015.
News Release: City of St. Marks
The City of St. Marks held a groundbreaking ceremony today to celebrate the start of cleanup, construction and redevelopment at the former St. Marks Refinery. The project is being funded in part by a Brownfields Revolving Loan Fund subgrant from the Tallahassee Brownfields Coalition.
The City of St. Marks acquired the property through bankruptcy proceedings in 2005. Since then, it has been aggressive in securing funds from various federal and state agencies to address the contamination. In 2009, the City of St. Marks received an Environmental Protection Agency Brownfields Assessment grant to determine the extent of contamination. This positioned them to receive an EPA cleanup grant in 2013. This funding, however, covers only part of the remediation activities, and the City of St. Marks was facing a future with a partially remediated site.
“The funding from the Brownfields Revolving Loan Fund subgrant will allow the City of St. Marks to make significant progress with the remediation and position the site for future redevelopment,” former St. Marks Mayor Chuck Shields said. Mayor Shields was instrumental in securing funds for work at the site.
The project holds several benefits, both direct and indirect, for the region. The partnership will contribute to the resolution of a long-term environmental issue in an ecologically sensitive area of the St. Marks River Watershed. Additionally, there will be direct economic benefits to construction and design contractors located in Leon and Wakulla counties.
“The City of Tallahassee is dedicated to supporting economic development within our region,” Tallahassee Mayor John Marks said. “The cleanup and redevelopment of the former St. Marks Refinery will lead to more opportunities for growth. Helping our neighboring community helps us all.”
The two cities have a long history in the area. The City of Tallahassee is a long-time employer in St. Marks, operating the Sam O. Purdom Power Generating Plant since 1952. The generating plant property, which is adjacent to the former St. Marks Refinery, was impacted by petroleum contamination stemming from the operations at the refinery.
Upon completion of the cleanup and redevelopment activities, the site will be referred to as St. Marks Innovation Park. It will accommodate commercial or retail establishments and enhance economic development in the community. The project is expected to be completed in 2015.
A “brownfield” is defined as real property, the expansion, redevelopment or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of contamination. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Brownfields Program is designed to empower states, communities and other stakeholders to work together to prevent, assess, safely clean up and sustainably reuse brownfields.