DEQ receives award for Avtex work

FRONT ROYAL – Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality has earned a federal award for its work to prepare the former Avtex Fibers site for redevelopment.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday that the DEQ received the Excellence in State Engagement Supporting Reuse Award for its achievements at three Superfund National Priority List sites in Virginia.

William Hayden, a spokesman with DEQ’s public affairs office, stated in an email: “Virginia DEQ is proud to receive this award, and more important, we are pleased that the efforts of the DEQ staff and many others have made significant contributions to improving the environment.”

The DEQ produced “outstanding results in site reuse” at Avtex Fibers in Front Royal, Chisman Creek in York County and Dixie Caverns County Landfill in Salem, according to information from the EPA announcement. Site reuses include recreational facilities, community and business parks, a new police station, a driver training center and a wildlife preserve.

The Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority continues to market the former Avtex Fibers site for commercial and industrial use. Front Royal officials broke ground Wednesday on the future home of the town police department on a parcel once used as a parking lot for Avtex. A large portion of the former Avtex Fibers property now serves as a conservation area.

The EPA developed the award in 2014 to recognize state partners whose work supporting the reuse of Superfund sites has led to benefits that enhance quality of life and ensure the long-term protection of site remedies and environmental stewardship.

EPA’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Cosmo Servidio stated that the DEQ enhanced the quality of life in Virginia communities through its commitment to protecting the environment and enriching neighborhoods.

The EPA grants the award to a state agency based on the following criteria:

• Encourage and support staff to participate in reuse-related activities designed to inform cleanup decisions at sites and strategize about reuse opportunities, including but not limited to: reuse plans, reuse assessments, and facilitated meetings.

• Collaborate with EPA to ensure current and future uses of sites are protective, including the implementation of institutional controls.

• Think strategically about funding approaches to help local governments, property owners, developers and other stakeholders to return blighted properties to beneficial use.

• Provide strong support and oversight to local governments, property owners, developers and other stakeholders.

• Develop a tool or approach to support the reuse of sites in their state.

• Help a local government, property owner, developer or other stakeholder move a reuse plan into reality, which may include but not be limited to: identifying or coordinating partners, addressing state liability concerns in a way that allows a property to move forward, providing funding to implement reuse activities, or ensuring proper permits are issued as appropriate.

• Share efforts to support site reuse with other States to encourage the reuse of blighted property.

• Ensure all appropriate institutional controls are in place.