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City seeks ADEM aid for hospital cleanup

The City of Hartselle is in phase two of three with the Alabama Department of Environmental Management to seek funds that would help demolish the former site of the Hartselle Medical Center and redevelop the area.  

Mayor Randy Garrison said the process with ADEM began in 2019, and the ideal final result would be to see the building safely demolished and the property put to better use.  

“It’s prime commercial property that is now an eyesore,” Garrison said.  

ADEM is putting the site under various tests to look for soil and ground water issues that could cause potential environmental issues to the area, Garrison said. If any issues are discovered, the city will be able to apply for a cleanup funds through the department to safely abate the hazardous material before demolishing the 38,000squarefoot building.  

The hospital was sold to Capella in 2007 and to Huntsville Hospital in 2012. It was closed the same month it was sold in 2012 and has been vacant since that time.  

Garrison said the former 150-bed healthcare facility is full of asbestos. He said ADEM completed an asbestos survey of the site June 1 and took soil and ground water sampling during the same timeframe.  

Garrison explained he was told by ADEM that while grant money for structure demolition isn’t likely, there is possibility of a cleanup grant if evidence is found of soil or ground water contaminants related to underground and above ground storage tanks that are still on site.  

 ADEM said the area might, after testing, be qualified as a brownfield area. According to ADEM’s website, brownfields are sites where previous activity has contaminated or potentially contaminated the property, making redevelopment activities more challenging than with otherwise undeveloped real estate. 

“A former site of a leather tannery, textile mill or an illegal dump site could be considered a brownfield because of the presence of hazardous substances, pollutants or contaminants. In many cases, these sites would not be attractive for redevelopment due to the cost of cleaning up these contaminants. It is currently estimated that there are more than 450,000 brownfields in the United States. 

However, in 1995, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency started its Brownfields Program to make it easier and more financially possible to put these old sites back to use creating jobs. This will encourage states, local communities and other interested parties to assess, clean up and redevelop brownfields and return them to clean, sustainable and beneficial uses. Today the program provides grants that support the revitalization of these areas by funding environmental assessment, cleanup and job training activities,” the website continued

Since its inception, the U.S. EPA Brownfields Program has provided more than $6.5 billion in brownfield cleanup and redevelopment funding, and has resulted in creation of an estimated 25,000 jobs.”  

Garrison said he does not know how much funding a potential grant would provide, but it would take at least $1.5 million to safely abate and demolish the former hospital. He said he would like to see the 5-acre property eventually used for some sort of mixed-use development.