Mainspring will clean up polluted oil company site

Ongoing efforts to revitalize the Franklin River District gained momentum this week when Mainspring Conservation Trust purchased a polluted site in the heart of the area.

The 0.67-acre property was once the Simpson Gas and Oil Company and is located at 544 East Main Street, directly across from Mainspring’s Franklin office. An agreement between the conservation trust and the N.C. Division of Environmental Quality states that the former petroleum distribution facility will be redeveloped into a green space that will complement the historic Nikwasi Mound.

“This acquisition has been in the works for more than two years,” said Ben Laseter, Mainspring’s associate director. “After we went through the extensive learning process of working with state and federal agencies on the brownfield property next door to our office, we felt like we could use that knowledge with other contaminated properties that affect significant cultural sites or properties with high conservation values.”

The old Simpson Gas property, which operated from 1951 to the mid-2000s, made perfect sense, as its proximity to the Little Tennessee River and Nikwasi Mound gives it the potential to improve Franklin’s aesthetic at the eastern entrance to downtown.

Hundreds of individual donors, state and federal environmental agencies, and local entities like the Town of Franklin, Macon County and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians are vital to the success of projects like this, Laseter said. Mainspring is currently pursuing grant funding for cleanup of the site, which it hopes to complete in 2019.

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