A revitalization project in Cleveland’s Flats East is among the most recent properties to be returned to productive use during the 25-year history of Ohio EPA’s Voluntary Action Program. The innovative program has benefitted communities across the state economically and environmentally by encouraging property owners to voluntarily clean up their land for redevelopment.
More than 13,540 acres of contaminated land on 615 sites in 69 counties have been cleaned up since the Voluntary Action Program was created in September 1994.
“Through the Voluntary Action Program, Ohio is turning contaminated land into a cleaner, healthier foundation for our future,” said Ohio Governor Mike DeWine. “This program has helped ready properties across Ohio for redevelopment, making way for economic opportunities and job growth while also ensuring a safer environment for Ohioans.”
The Voluntary Action Program was created to cut through red tape that could stall redevelopment, providing property owners and communities a detailed path to follow for remediating old industrial sites.
“For many years, the VAP has provided a flexible pathway for private entities to work in partnership with state and local government to clean up properties that would otherwise be left abandoned,” said Ohio EPA Director Laurie A. Stevenson. “The VAP standards ensure properties are remediated to safe standards and the program has helped communities turn hundreds of sites back into productive use. VAP projects are wins for the environment and Ohio’s economy.”
The latest project in the Flats, a popular Cleveland entertainment and commercial district on the banks of the Cuyahoga River, encompasses nearly 12 acres and is part of an area formerly known for heavy industry. Other parts of The Flats, totaling 25.5 acres, previously went through the Voluntary Action Program.
The program fits properties of all sizes. The 13,540 acres remediated in the first 25 years includes properties as small as former gas stations to those covering hundreds of acres where former steel mills and factories once were located. The program has opened old lands to new industrial and commercial enterprises as well as new housing and parkland in communities large and small.
Property owners (also known as volunteers) often are private entities working in partnership with local governments. A volunteer hires an experienced environmental professional certified by Ohio EPA to evaluate the property, identify potential areas of contamination, and, if necessary, clean it up. The volunteer also can request assistance from Ohio EPA to answer questions or conduct interim reviews of the remediation work.
Property owners are not required to notify Ohio EPA in advance of a cleanup and have the flexibility to proceed at their own pace. Documentation detailing the work performed must only be submitted when the volunteer wants legal assurance that the remediation meets standards of the Voluntary Action Program and that Ohio EPA will not require further action. Ohio EPA evaluates the documentation and, if it meets program standards, issues a legal covenant stating that the owner and future owners are not responsible for further investigation and cleanup of past contamination.