Polluted ‘Zombie’ properties get a clean-up

WWNY Polluted ‘Zombie’ properties get a clean-up

MASSENA, N.Y. (WWNY) - From old, dirty gas stations, businesses in St. Lawrence County, comes a chance at new life.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation is cleaning up abandoned, polluted properties so they can be put on the real estate market and sold.

So far, more than 50 have been rid of pollution, with another three being worked on now.

On Wednesday, local and state officials gathered in Massena at one site just cleaned up. A service station on Willow Street had leaked hundreds of gallons of petroleum.

“A long time ago just about every neighborhood had their gas station. … a lot of those went out of business,” said Randall Young, the Department of Environmental Conservation’s regional director.

“And then they’d just sit because people don’t want to take the risk of buying a contaminated property.”

So the clean-up is a big deal.

“It uplifts the community,” said Timmy Currier, Massena’s mayor. “It certainly improves the tax base; makes the community look better. But in the end it’s called community development and its moving us forward.”

Three more gas stations are being cleaned up - in Madrid, Hermon and Potsdam. If you include the one on Willow Street in Massena, the total cost of the clean-up for the four is $535,000. The money comes from the state to start, but the state gets some of its money back if the properties are sold.

The way it works is this: St. Lawrence County takes a lead role by getting temporary ownership of the property. Environmental Conservation then gets rid of contamination. The county then takes full ownership and can put it up for sale.

“The thing about this entire process is it’s partnerships at every level: local, county, and state level working together,” Currier said.

Does it work? One example from Massena.

The former Slavin’s building in Massena was cleaned up years ago, and the building is now called The Mercantile. It houses luxury apartments and commercial space.

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