The effort by Chester County to acquire and demolish one of the downtown Chester's worst eyesores looks like a winner all the way around.
The concrete slab at the corner of Hudson and Saluda streets once was the site of two gas stations. Now, it is simply a blighted property with three underground petroleum tanks.
County Councilman Alex Oliphant, a longtime advocate of restoring eyesores throughout the county, has been trying to get the county to look at this site for years. But, he said, the project didn't take off until Carlisle Roddey took office as county supervisor in January 2007.
Roddey made the cleanup a priority, and the county has been negotiating for six months with the oil company that owns the site. The result appears to be a good deal for the county: The oil company would give the property to the county at no cost if the county agrees to assume responsibility for the cleanup.
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The underground tanks are a big concern. If they have leaked, that might entail an expensive effort to ensure pollutants are removed.
But word from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control is reassuring. DHEC spokesman Thom Berry said his agency is not aware of any contamination on the property. Roddey also said the tanks had been drained long ago.
Soil tests will be required once the tanks are removed, and the county is prepared to pay up to $25,000 worth of cleanup costs. If the costs are higher than that, Roddey said an insurance policy will cover the additional expenses.
Once the property has been cleared, Oliphant hopes it will be converted into a green space with park benches. The County Council has given initial approval to accepting the land, and it appears that county will be covered if any environmental problems arise.
As Roddey noted, any cleanup such as this can help spur economic development. More green space can only enhance Chester's cityscape.
We think county officials deserve credit for pursuing this project. Both the city of Chester and the county officials stand to benefit.
Chester County is moving ahead with a plan to rid downtown Chester of blighted site.
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