IDA to use $100,000 in grants for second phase of environmental assessment at Schoolfield, White Mill sites in Danville

An ongoing environmental analysis at the former Dan River Inc. sites in Schoolfield and at the White Mill just got a $100,000 boost.

The money from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the Virginia Economic Development Partnership will help pay for phase II of the brownfield environmental assessment at the two sites.

The money goes to the Danville Industrial Development Authority, which has an agreement with Cardno, an Australia-based firm in Richmond, to conduct the assessment.

The analysis covers the White Mill and Long Mill properties and the Schoolfield site, where Caesars Virginia plans to build a casino resort.

β€œIt will certainly provide them [the casino company] information that they could use as they plan to develop the site,” said City Manager Ken Larking.

In 2019, Danville received $300,000 from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to conduct environmental assessments in the River District, where the White Mill is located, and the Schoolfield area. The extra $100,000 from the Virginia Brownfields Restoration and Economic Development Assistance Fund will further supplement that.

A brownfield is a property in which the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of it may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant, according to the EPA.

The purpose of the assessment is to examine the properties to determine whether they are brownfield sites, which are areas contaminated by industrial or commercial use.

City officials want to help prepare the buildings and sites for future private investment, said Economic Development Director Corrie Teague Bobe.

“It’s always helpful to conduct site due diligence,” Bobe said during an interview at city hall following the IDA’s meeting Tuesday morning.

For the end developer, it will help them better understand timelines for redeveloping the property and what they need in their budget for the project, Bobe said. The assessment also enables them to reduce their risk within the local market and understand any development issues with the site that may arise, she added.

“It’s another way for our community to assist private developers,” Bobe said.

The first phase of the assessment at both sites is complete, and Schoolfield is already undergoing the second phase, Bobe said.

According to the June 16, 2020 report for phase I at Schoolfield, previous assessments have been conducted at the site – most of them in the 1990s.

The latest conducted by Cardno identified several “recognized environmental conditions,” including onsite historical industrial uses, bulk petroleum storage, manufacturing processes, as well as past releases from historically onsite petroleum underground storage tanks.

The analysis also found that onsite buildings may contain asbestos and lead-painted surfaces.

The second phase will further assess the RECs, Bobe said.

The work will include the advancement of 21 soil borings, 12 monitoring wells, an asbestos-containing materials survey and lead-based paint survey.

As for the White Mill property, phase II has not yet begun, Bobe said.

In January 2019, the IDA approved an agreement with The Alexander Company for an option to buy the White Mill property for $3 million. The company has until March 3 to decide whether to buy the property that overlooks the Dan River.

At the property, The Alexander Company has performed environmental and traffic assessments, soil borings, architectural plans and surveying and civil engineering plans, as well as construction estimation, feasibility and financial models based on various uses, company spokesperson Kendra Bishop told the Danville Register & Bee in November 2020.

There are estimated to be about 450,000 brownfield sites in the U.S., according to the EPA.

As for the Schoolfield property β€” which is owned by the Caesars Virginia β€” it includes about 82 acres and covers the area from a retention pond left over from Dan River Inc. from West Main Street to Bishop Road, and there from West Main Street to Memorial Drive.

The White Mill and Long Mill sites total about 25 acres.

The assessments will not cost the city any money.

City officials hope residential development at the iconic White Mill building could provide homes for employees of the casino that Caesars Entertainment plans to build at Schoolfield.

Article by John Crane