Editorial: Beech-Nut agreement is a model

Cooperation between government agencies can work to help the people
Demolition at the former Beech-Nut facility in Canajoharie in March 2015.
Demolition at the former Beech-Nut facility in Canajoharie in March 2015.

Imagine the federal, state and local governments all working together for the common good in a way that helps taxpayers and boosts economic development in a struggling region.

Anyone who pulls that off could be a model for others to emulate.

That’s why the new agreement to clean up and revitalize the old Beech-Nut property in Montgomery County bears watching.

On Thursday, officials from Montgomery County  and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency jointly announced an agreement to clean up the old baby-food manufacturing facility in Canajoharie of asbestos and piles of debris.

The agreement calls for the removal of more than 2,500 tons of material and equipment that remains on the site, with the goal of quickly declaring the site asbestos-free and allowing it to be used for economic development the area so badly needs.

The solution involves applying for state and federal grants to help offset the estimated $6 million-$10 million cost.

What was most striking about the press release was a statement from EPA Regional Administrator Pete Lopez calling this a “unique approach” that reinforces EPA’s nationwide efforts to reform and streamline the Superfund process.

It might be unique in that the county has stepped forward to conduct cleanup efforts that by rights should be done by the companies that made the mess. 

But it’s also unique in that federal, state and local officials were able to work together so cooperatively to find a solution to a complex legal and environmental problem.

That kind of cooperation should be commonplace, not “unique.”

What also might be unique is the speed at which the project appears ready to move forward. The county plans to hire a coordinating contractor and at least one cleanup contractor within 10 days of the agreement and to have a detailed plan for the work in place within a month. Once the operating plan is approved by the EPA, the site would be cleaned up within three months. Three months. That’s astounding for something of this magnitude.

With this plan, Montgomery County can go ahead with the cleanup, redevelopment and marketing of the site immediately instead of waiting potentially years for the legal issues to be settled.

In fact, they’re so anxious to get going that they’ve scheduled a public meeting for Nov. 29 to get the residents’ thoughts about future of the site. But instead of their comments being part of some long-away dream, some of their ideas could quickly become reality.

This shows that when government gets out of its own way, it can accomplish good things for the people.

So far, what’s happening with the Beech-Nut site looks like a process that others might want to watch and emulate.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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