Economic Development Corp. “Deep” into Clean-Up at former Howe’s Leather Site

Source:, October 15, 2014
By: Jessica Shirey

The Clearfield County Economic Development Corp. (CCEDC) is “deep” into the clean-up of the former Howe’s Leather tannery site, according to Rob Swales, CCEDC chief executive officer.
The site spans 26.5 acres in Curwensville Borough. It’s recognized as a brownfield site by the state Department of Environmental Protection, which means it’s perceived to have environmental liabilities, said Swales.
Further, he said that the CCEDC agreed to facilitate clean-up of the site, as it was prohibitive to future development. He said developers would neither take such a risk due to the costs associated with redeveloping the site nor without having an “end user” in sight.
“It’s a project just like we did with the Harbison-Walker site, which is now the ethanol plant,” said Swales. Currently, he said the CCEDC is in the process of removing residual sludge material from the former Howe’s Leather site.
The sludge material, he said, is leftover from the tannery process and not considered toxic. He described it as a “high-grade and nitrogen rich” vegetable-based material, which Howe’s Leather was permitted to landfill on-site.
Swales said the sludge material, which has been removed from the site, has been used to mitigate acid mine drainage at mining sites within Clearfield County. When the tannery was in operation, he said it was not only used for this, but also as agricultural fertilizer.
While the CCEDC proceeds with the on-site sludge removal, he said it’s also breaking up residual concrete. This, he said, is being used as base fill material to meet compaction requirements at the three-acre open pit.
“After the clean-up is completed, we will have 26.5 acres of land available for redevelopment and to expand the current Curwensville Industrial Park,” said Swales. “It’s going to really expand opportunities for Curwensville for additional commercial and industrial development.”
The former Howe’s Leather site, he said, is unique due to existing infrastructure. He said it has water, sewage and natural gas capabilities and access to both rail and water. He also noted that there’s “heavy infrastructure” within a one-mile radius of the site, including commercial pipelines, electric and utility lines, etc., which are essential to attracting industry.
“It has a lot of assets once it’s cleaned up,” said Swales. The CCEDC’s vision, he said, divides the available land into three- to five-acre parcels to accommodate facilities that range between 5,000 and 15,000 or 20,000 square feet. “At capacity we’d expect real estate tax revenues alone to generate $100,000 to $125,000 annually.”
Swales said at the time the CCEDC begins its redevelopment plans, it will make site selection consultants and real estate agents aware of the availability of land parcels at the former Howe’s Leather site.

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