Report: Matthews Foundry not contaminated

Written by John McVey on . Posted in Media, News


MARTINSBURG – The Matthews Foundry Team got some good news at their meeting Friday.

“There is no recognizable environmental concern,” Joe Freeman of Boggs Environmental Consultants in Frederick, Md., said. “The perceptions about the foundry’s contamination are misplaced.”

Because of its many years of heavy industrial use, there were concerns that the soil in and around the foundry was contaminated with toxic materials.

Main Street Martinsburg won a $5,750 West Virginia Redevelopment Collaborative grant earlier this year to devise a marketing plan for the property, which includes environmental, structural and historical assessments of the site.

The West Virginia Redevelopment Collaborative is a program of the Northern West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center.

In addition to Main Street Martinsburg and WVRC, the Matthews Foundry Team includes Martinsburg city officials, Main Street West Virginia representatives and others with expertise in redeveloping former industrial sites.

Located at the southern end of the Queen Street underpass, the foundry is owned by Vincent Groh of Hagerstown. The marketing plan could be used by Groh to attract a developer or investors.

The original 140-foot by 45-foot, two-story limestone structure was built around 1851 by Samuel Fitz of Hanover, Pa., according to its nomination for the National Register of Historical Places.

Fitz specialized in manufacturing waterwheels, and the first all-metal waterwheel in America might have been manufactured at the Martinsburg foundry, according to one historical account of Fitz’s company.

The business has been known as the Fitz Foundry, the Tuscarora Iron Works and most recently as the T.E. Matthews Foundry. It operated as a machine shop until about 1994.

The environmental study is important to show prospective developers that the site does not need a great deal of remediation to make it safe for public use.

Freeman visited the site in September to get samples to test for contaminants. He tested soil samples around the foundry and found no traces of contaminants.

“The soil is clean outside,” he said.

Tests of the dirt floor inside the building turned up residual levels of contaminants, Freeman said.

“It doesn’t represent an environmental concern,” he said, adding that if the property is redeveloped, the floors inside the foundry would be capped with concrete sealing the slightly contaminated soil.

Also because of its age, there were concerns the building might have been built with toxic materials that were legal then, but would be outlawed today.

Freeman said he found trace amounts of lead paint on the exterior doors to the foundry and trace amounts of asbestos in plaster covering the stone walls on the second floor of the historic structure, but neither pose a hazardous threat and both could be treated easily.

Freeman’s report is good for one year, he said.

– Staff writer John McVey can be reached at 304-263-3381, ext. 128.

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