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Filtering out pollutants at DC Filter

Andy Ouriel • Sep 23, 2013 at 6:20 PM

It took Sandusky-based realtors more than two years to filter out pollutants rooted inside a previously blighted building.

But after a complete overhaul, including crews meticulously cleaning out the 32,000-square-foot site, the property formerly known as DC Filter & Chemical on Fifth Street is finally clean.

Executives at W-T Realty — a Sandusky-based real estate company managing about 1,000 housing units in Sandusky, Clyde, Huron and Fremont — began purchasing portions of the property in 2010, which included an on-site blighted building. They own the entire property today.

At least one building became a hazard because, over the past century, several different manufacturers produced potent, poisonous products from there.

Chief among them: DC Filter, operating from 1976 to 2011.

DC Filter workers stored large amounts of cleaning compounds, detergents and other chemicals for a now-defunct dry-cleaning business. Upon abandoning the area, DC Filter’s former owner left about 1,000 separate drums filled with toxins. “It took a year just to dispose of all the materials in here,” W-T Realty’s property manager Bob Waldock said. “The roof also blew off and was deteriorated.”

During the past two-plus years, Waldock oversaw dramatic on-site improvements, including: q Cleaning the entire 11 acres. q Repairing the roof. q Installing all new electricity, heaters and access to gas. q Painting the building’s interior and exterior. “This can be a storage facility, a center for manufacturing or a place where a distributor might need office space or storage,” Waldock said. “It can even be a place for boat storage because of the close proximity to the bay.”

While tedious, Waldock took pride in helping revitalize a contaminated property. “This is a successful brownfield site for the city and the state,” Waldock said. “We have something to show for it, and it’s something that can be rented and taxed. It can produce income for the area and has the potential to bring more jobs into the city of Sandusky.”

Waldock also took personal gratification in helping beautify this once-contaminated site. “We’re an old family from Sandusky, and we would like to see Sandusky prospser,” Waldock said. “If I tore down the building, I would have had very expensive land. Now, maybe it will attract some business.”

Waldock would not reveal how much of an investment W-T Realty made into the property.

The Erie County auditor’s website values the property, at 1517 Fifth St., near Dairy Queen by Cedar Point, at $102,000.

DC Filter’s cleanup represents a positive trend of removing or refining blights throughout Sandusky. In the past few months, crews have already demolished the Apex Building on First Street as well as razing Wisteria Farms on Campbell Street.

City officials also outlined plans to demolish the Keller Building on West Shoreline Drive and the Sandusky Cabinets property on East Washington Street in the coming years.

“When owners take responsibility of the maintenance of their buildings, it provides a measure of safety, not only for the occupants but for the surrounding residents,” Sandusky fire Chief Paul Ricci said.

Sandusky officials also played a role in completely cleaning up the former DC Filter and Chemical property on Fifth Street.

In early 2012 — with the help of thenstate Rep. Dennis Murray Jr., D-Sandusky — officials obtained a $250,000 state grant to pay for a thorough on-site assessment.

After the assessment occurred, city commissioners asked their environmental consultants in November to conduct an analysis of this property.

Consultants:

• Tested up to 50 on-site soil locations by digging about 20 feet below the surface for samples.

• Installed about 25 groundwater monitoring wells.

• Retrieved roughly 10 concrete chip samples. Workers drilled several inches deep into the concrete slab.

• Submitted tests to a certified Ohio analytical laboratory.

The result? A positive one.

For the first time in 90 years, someone finally thoroughly cleaned and ensured the site is safe for future development, according to a recent report generated by consultants, which the Register obtained through a public records request.

Sandusky taxpayers contributed an additional $8,000, in conjunction with Murray’s grant, to pay for the cleanup and assessment.

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