NEW RICHMOND, Ohio -- For the first time since Duke Energy announced the closure of the Walter C. Beckjord power plant in 2011, leaders in Clermont County have begun to make concrete plans for the riverfront property's next life.
Duke announced Monday it had finalized the defunct plant's sale to Commercial Liability Partners, which plans to decommission and demolish it to clear a path for eventual redevelopment.
"A lot of us had hope that something good could come from (the closure)," said Bob Pautke of the nonprofit Connect Clermont. "We now see the early signs of something good coming to fruition."
The site will require extensive cleanup, however, before CLP can repurpose it. Four unlined ponds around the property are packed with coal ash, the toxic waste left over when coal is burned to make electricity. Coal ash contains arsenic, chromium and vanadium, and leakage from one such pond forced Clermont County to shut down a contaminated drinking water well in the ‘80s.
CLP representatives said at a Monday meeting with local leaders the company planned to remove the coal ash from the ponds.
"That's something that we're very concerned about," Pierce Township trustee Allen Freeman said. "How is (the cleanup) process going to take place and what methods are they going to use to clean the site? … The devil is always in the details."
Freeman added he believes the county can begin developing a plan for the site while that cleanup takes place.
New Richmond Schools superintendent Adam Bird said he believed the added tax revenue generated by redevelopment could be a good thing for his district.
"I think it will be really good for Clermont County," he said.
Although the property no longer belongs to Duke Energy, Duke announced it would donated $250,000 to Clermont Connect for each of the next three years. The payments will go toward Clermont's Agenda for the Future, a comprehensive plan to improve its transportation, attract new investments and protect natural areas in the county.