Sparks enters the home stretch for brownfields study initiative |

Sparks enters the home stretch for brownfields study initiative

John Seelmeyer

An initiative by the Sparks city government to identify possible contamination at sites that are targeted for redevelopment has cleared more than 20 locations.

Now as the federally funded program begins to wind down, Sparks officials are renewing their call to property owners who want an assessment free of charge to the property owner that will help them clear the way for possible sale or redevelopment of their property.

About $100,000 in funds from the Environmental Protection Agency remains for the program, which comes to an end Oct. 31, said Karen Melby, a senior planner with the city government.

The city has contracted with Converse Consultants of Carson City to undertake a two-step process for property owners.

In the first phase, consultants working with city staff members look through historic records to see if the properties might have been used in some way that might have led to contamination.

A site that was once home to a service station, for instance, might still have gas tanks underground.

The second step of the process involves a more extensive look, including soil and water sampling or geophysical testing, at properties that might be contaminated.

A clean bill of health that shows a property is free from contamination often is required by lenders before they’ll finance a transaction.

City officials have said the assessments they’ve completed through the EPA program otherwise would cost landowners several thousand dollars.

Property owners still are responsible, however, for the costs of cleanup.

Kathi Brandmueller, a senior engineer with Converse Consultants, said engineers were able to work efficiently on the Sparks project because they sometimes were able to take a look at a block of neighboring properties all at once.

That efficiency allowed the project to take on studies of additional properties.

The program is available only for properties in one of the Sparks redevelopment districts but those districts cover a wide swath including Victorian Square, the Sparks Marina, the commercial district on Oddie Boulevard and the Conductors Heights neighborhood near Rock Boulevard.

Those neighborhoods are believed to include dozens of sites that may have been contaminated by service stations, underground storage tanks, dry cleaners, auto-painting shops or other operations that used hazardous materials.

The assessments can take as long as two months if field work is required, Brandmueller said.


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