Council to discuss Porter project at Aug. 8 meet

United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials recently began work on the former HK Porter factory site, and city officials are inviting anyone with questions, concerns or an interest in the project to attend the next meeting of the Huntington Common Council on Tuesday, Aug. 8, at 7 p.m. in the city council chambers, 300 Cherry St.

Andrew Maguire, the EPA federal on-scene coordinator for the project, which is expected to last 10 weeks, and city officials plan to present the most current information on the Superfund project.

EPA officials arrived in Huntington on July 17 to start the assessment phase, which involved air and soil tests for baseline quality and a review of all potential hazards to public health.

Maguire and his team of 12 is preparing for the removal of several hazardous materials – including asbestos, lead and benzine – at the site.

Maguire and his crew recently obtained and packaged air and water samples for testing at an independent lab. They reported they are aware of lead in the soil and are systematically testing areas throughout the site. City-owned public rights of way will also be tested, which may lead Maguire to request testing of privately-owned properties as well.

Huntington Mayor Brooks Fetters delivered letters regarding the project to area residents on July 27. Maguire, Huntington Director of Development and Redevelopment Bryn Keplinger and other city officials spoke with homeowners in the area on July 28, to hear concerns and to offer open communication regarding the clean-up.

“We have technology onsite that continuously monitors air quality at locations throughout the site,” said Maguire. “If the level of asbestos were to reach a level that the EPA deems unsafe, I receive an e-mail immediately. At that point our crew would cease operations and fix the air quality issue before resuming work.”

Keplinger hopes many will take advantage of the opportunity to attend the meeting. He stresses the importance of communication regarding hazardous materials, especially since so many children live and play near the HK Porter site.

“We hope parents will remind their kids not to enter the HK Porter site during the Superfund clean-up or subsequent redevelopment,” says Keplinger. “We look forward to one day sharing this space with the public, but until then it is not a safe place to play or explore.”

The 12-acre property on Sabine Street became the property of Huntington in March 2014, after a series of initial environmental assessments. The city secured the perimeter to discourage trespassing and has demolished eight outlying buildings.

The city was awarded an EPA Brownfield Assessment in the spring of 2015. In October 2015, the site was approved for action on the EPA’s Superfund Emergency Response Program.