The former Raymark Industries Inc. site south of the borough is one of three locations in Pennsylvania to be included in the Brownfield Action Team program, according to a press release from the state Department of Environmental Protection, DEP.

The two other BAT sites are the former Metal Wire plant in Driftwood, Cameron County, and the EMI/Gunite Reuse Opportunity project in Erie.

Inclusion in the BAT program, introduced by Gov. Ed Rendell in 2004, will help speed up the process of acquiring permits needed to clean up the Raymark site, as well as providing the borough, developers and others with one contact person to answer questions.

"It creates a cooperative effort between us and DEP as we work through the cleanup and flood plain issues involving the site," said Manheim borough manager Rob Stoner. "It will streamline the process we go through to get approvals and put us into the design and planning phase a little bit sooner. It's a whole different level of cooperation."

For example, Stoner said, DEP officials will participate in a meeting with the borough and engineering firms to look at contamination issues on the 66-acre site. Ordinarily, he said, getting DEP involved could have taken several weeks. Under the BAT program, the meeting will take place next week.

"It's working," Stoner said.

Among the things that need to be done on the site, which once used asbestos to manufacture such items as brake linings for cars, is removal of storage tanks, the demolition of old buildings, some of which date back to the 1920s, and the excavation of contaminated soil.

When completed, it is hoped the site, now called Greentree Business Center, will attract new business and industry and create as many as 500 new jobs.

The borough, in conjunction with Greentree Business Center, on March 16 was awarded a $175,000 grant through the state Department of Community and Economic Development.

The Business In Our Sights, or BIOS, grant will help Manheim pay to develop the site.

"They will need a master plan for the balance of work," said state Sen. Noah Wenger, who helped the borough get the grant. "This will help pay for that plan. Then they will have to follow up with the work as they get an opportunity to do so and as new businesses look to move in."

The original factory opened in 1906 as U.S. Asbestos Co. Over the years, the plant expanded and the name changed to Raybestos-Manhattan, Raymark and, lastly, Universal Friction. Once the largest employer in the Manheim area, it was decimated by a flood of asbestos-related lawsuits, as well as numerous citations for contaminating nearby streams. Operations at the site ceased in 1998.

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