EPA accepting proposals for Brownfields Assessment and Cleanup Grants

texaco-brownfieldThe Double Wide Grill in Pittsburgh, PA was built in a former gas station building with help from the EPA Brownfields Program. Photo by EPA Smart Growth via Flickr.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced three grant programs for 2015 to help clean up land contaminated by petroleum and hazardous substances, pollutants, or contaminants.

Brownfields Assessment Grants provide funding for developing inventories of brownfields, prioritizing sites, conducting community involvement activities and conducting site assessments and cleanup planning related to brownfield sites. Individual grants go up to $200,000.

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Southeastern San Diego to replace brownfields area with community's smart growth vision

Community members help plan the Village at Market Creek development. Image courtesy of the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation.
Community members plan the Village at Market Creek development. Image courtesy of the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation.

After extensive planning and dozens of community meetings, the Village at Market Creek in San Diego, CA, is ready to break ground on the next phase of a visionary smart growth project.

For two decades, San Diego has been working to remediate and redevelop the former home of aerospace manufacturer Langley Corp. The company left San Diego in the 1990s, but leaking underground storage tanks and other potentially hazardous materials on the numerous factory sites remained. That meant the 60 acres were not only blighted, but potentially dangerous to redevelop.

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Ohio Advances Sustainable Brownfields Renewal

Columbus brownfields
Top: A former industrial site in Columbus, OH, undergoes cleanup and remediation.
Bottom: The site is now home to Harrison Park housing complex and a town rec center. Image courtesy of Clean Ohio Revitalization Fund.

Cleaning up and redeveloping abandoned, contaminated brownfield sites can create jobs, increase tax revenue, renew neighborhoods and is a great investment of public funds. But local officials make those investments go even farther by supporting projects that not only improve an area and attract private investment but catalyze redevelopment of surrounding properties, too.

That’s the concept behind area-wide planning, the idea that brownfields redevelopment works best when it connects individual site redevelopment with a larger vision for community revitalization. By redeveloping multiple sites in the same area through a single plan, the reinvestment in the neighborhood can be leveraged by a number of projects, not just one,and make public dollars go even further.

This strategy has helped a handful of areas across the country achieve notable successes, but federal and state funding restrictions have made addressing multiple sites at the same time notoriously difficult. In the past, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) restricted its brownfields cleanup grants to work on individual sites, requiring separate applications for multiple sites. Projects that included “petroleum brownfields” like gas stations required application to a separate pool of funding with a separate set of rules. All of these stood in the way of coordinated area planning, and efficient redevelopment of the properties.

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Lowell’s Area-Wide Plan Targets Historic Tanner Street Corridor

Lowell, Mass., street, originally uploaded by The Library of Congress.

Lowell, Massachusetts has an important national legacy: the city was the United States’ largest textile producer in the 1800s, the birthplace of Jack Kerouac, and home to the invention of Moxie, one of the earliest (and most delicious) soft drinks mass produced in the country.

Lowell’s Tanner Street Corridor, the focus of the Area-Wide Planning Pilot Grant the city received from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last month, still reflects that legacy. The corridor is one of the few remaining active industrial areas in the city, with an emphasis on automobile and metal recycling.

Unfortunately, with the decline of manufacturing nationally, Tanner Street Corridor now also faces a number of barriers to economic revitalization. At least six vacant or underutilized brownfields sites are located along the corridor, contaminated by heavy industrial use and in need of remediation. At the same time, many manufacturing companies have been forced to relocate outside of Lowell because a lack of viable available land has prevented expansion within the city.

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