By Katie Demeria
After decades of cleanup, the Avtex Superfund Site is finally ready to be returned to the community.
The Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority plans to hold a community event to celebrate and tour the remediated Avtex site, according to Executive Director Jennifer McDonald.
"Avtex, at one time, was the only industry that provided jobs in this community," McDonald said. "When it was shut down, it was devastating."
The event will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 20 rain or shine, and will provide entertainment in addition to tours of the site. It will take place at the Avtex Commercial Site, 400 Kendrick Lane, Front Royal.
In the morning, attendees can listen to speakers associated with the project, McDonald said. Local food vendors, businesses and organizations will also be present, as well as music and activities for kids.
All members of the community are invited, and the EDA is encouraging former Avtex employees to attend as well.
A total of 162 acres is now available for redevelopment, according to McDonald. Another 240 have been made into a conservancy park along the Shenandoah River.
"This community has waited a long time to have this site handed back over to them," McDonald said.
Event attendees should also be able to witness the Environmental Protection Agency handing a letter of no further interest to the EDA, she added.
"That will allow us to start redeveloping the property," McDonald said, adding that new businesses will add more tax revenue and jobs to the community.
The area became a superfund site in 1989, she said, and the EDA took ownership in 2000.
John Torrence has been the senior project manager since 1999. He is with Environmental Resources Management, a sustainability consultancy that was contracted by the FMC Cooperation. FMC was responsible for the land's remediation.
Torrence said that when cleanup began, FMC asked the community what they wanted from the site. Community members responded with three requests: job opportunities, an open space conservation area and places to play, including athletic fields.
"I'm very proud to have been part of this cleanup," Torrence said. "I was working with a company that was dedicated to making it right."
The cleanup took so long because crews were very careful about how they worked on the property, according to Torrence. The buildings had to be cleaned before they were demolished to avoid leaving hazardous materials behind.
The soil also had to be carefully characterized, and the entire sewer system -- beneath both the land used for redevelopment and the conservancy land -- had to be removed.
Soon, the community will be able to take advantage of the property, both through new businesses and the conservancy, which includes trails.
"I've been here long enough that I've seen the town of Front Royal transform in a very good way, and I think the completion of the remediation, and now looking forward to the ready for redevelopment message we have -- it just feels good," Torrence said.
Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org