Getting the Farrell Area School District to forgive back taxes on the land appears to be the last big hurdle.
By HAROLD GWIN
VINDICATOR SHARON BUREAU
WHEATLAND, Pa. -- Mayor Thomas Stanton thinks a former industrial waste site off Church Street along the Shenango River would be an excellent location for a nature walk.
It's been cleaned up, and it has little or no commercial value because no one can build on it at least in part because it's in the Shenango River flood plain.
Returning it to nature through development of a nature trail is the best use for the 42 acres, Stanton said.
Wheatland borough is willing to take ownership of the property, but there's the matter of getting local taxing bodies to forgive some delinquent taxes on the land first.
Stanton said the borough is owed $3,832, Mercer County is owed $3,193 and the Farrell Area School District is owed $14,262.
The debts are on the books, but it is unlikely they will ever be paid because ownership of the land is in dispute, Stanton said.
History: It was owned by Alvin Taylor, who sold it to Wheatland Tube (now the Maneely-Wheatland Partnership) in 1976.
However, Wheatland Tube never made all of the payments on the land and in 1989 sought to rescind the sales agreement in court.
Today, neither the Maneely-Wheatland Partnership nor the Taylor estate (Taylor died in 1984) claim title to the land, but both have said they would be willing to see Wheatland take ownership in exchange for forgiveness of back taxes, Stanton said.
The land would be exempt from taxes if owned by the borough.
Stanton said both Wheatland and the county have shown a willingness to forgive their portions of the back taxes. He took his pitch to the Farrell Area School Board last week.
The board made no promises but agreed to consider his plan.
The site is adjacent to the Farrell-Wheatland Little League complex and borough ownership could guarantee there would never by any more pollution there, Stanton told the board.
Possibilities: The borough could plant trees and flowers, he said. Students from the Farrell school district, which includes Wheatland, could get involved in designing and building a nature walk, Stanton suggested.
Richard Rubano, Farrell superintendent of schools, said such a project could be linked with the Shenango River for ecological study programs.
There are environmental grants available that could help with the development, he said.
"It's cleared up. Let's put it back the way it was before they messed it up," Stanton told the board.
About 10 acres were used as an industrial waste disposal site from 1958 until the early 1970s.
The state Department of Environmental Protection said soil and water tests showed the presence of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), arsenic, lead, zinc, cadmium and other heavy metals, making it a hazardous waste site.
The property is bordered by the Shenango River on the west and south. The same hazardous materials have shown up in river sediment just downstream, according to the DEP.
The state identified the parties responsible for disposing of those materials and, in May 1998, ordered them to clean it up.
Cleanup: The Taylor estate, Grimes Aerospace (successor to the former National Castings Plant in Sharon), Armco Inc. (former owner of Sawhill Tubular Products in Wheatland), Maneely-Wheatland Partnership and CBS Corp. (successor to Westinghouse Electric, which had a transformer plant in Sharon) were the parties who placed or controlled the placing of waste material there, said Mark Gorman, DEP's project engineer for the site.
All but the Taylor estate, which has no money, shared in the cleanup cost, estimated at about $1.6 million, Gorman said.
The contaminants were buried under a couple of feet of soil on about 10 acres right on the site, following a plan put together by DEP, he said.
The five parties are also responsible for post-cleanup monitoring of the site for 30 years at a total cost of about $340,000.
Gorman said the DEP backs Stanton's plans for the land, with some restrictions assuring that the waste disposal areas won't be bothered, and is doing what it can to help the borough get title to the property.
Stanton said that because it is in a flood plan, much of the land is wetlands and is really unsuitable for anything other than recreational use.