Neighborhoods to gain health, environmental and economic benefits
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – April 22, 2010 – (RealEstateRama) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced $400,000 in brownfields grants to Pima County, Arizona, and the City of Tucson, which are receiving funding through the Brownfields Assessment, Revolving Loan Fund, and Cleanup Grants program.
Across the nation, nearly $80 million in brownfields grants will be used for the assessment, cleanup and redevelopment of brownfields properties, including abandoned gas stations, old textile mills, closed smelters, and other abandoned industrial and commercial properties.
“Cleaning up and reusing distressed properties brings new jobs and stronger communities,” said Jared Blumenfeld, Regional Administrator for EPA in the Pacific Southwest. “In addition to creating green jobs, local efforts to revitalize brownfield sites reduce threats to public health while attracting positive investments in our neighborhoods.”
Pima County was selected to receive two brownfields assessment grants. The county is focusing its assessment efforts on the communities of Ajo, Why, and Lukeville (combined population 4,000). Located in the Sonoran Desert environment of southwest Arizona, they are the most remote communities in the county. Copper mining and tourism were once the economic engines for the area, but these industries have been greatly diminished.
The closing of a large copper mine in the mid-1980s has devastated the once vibrant businesses along the Arizona Route 85 corridor extending through the three towns. Many buildings along the corridor are now vacant, and about 90 potential brownfield sites have been identified. Assessment of brownfields is expected to facilitate retail and commercial redevelopment opportunities by identifying contamination and bridging the gap in pre-development costs.
In addition, the City of Tucson was also selected for two brownfield assessment grants. A large portion of the downtown area of Tucson (population 525,529) has been designated a federal Empowerment Zone, which includes the target area of more than 20 square miles. More than 30 percent of residents in this area live below the poverty level, and more than 71 percent of residents are minorities. A disproportionate number of the estimated 5,200 brownfields in Tucson lie in the project area.
Tucson is one of the largest cities in the country that obtains its drinking water from groundwater supplies. The existence of many brownfields threatens residential drinking water quality. The city has developed plans for corridors throughout the project area where redevelopment can be the most beneficial to residents.
The brownfields program encourages redevelopment of America’s estimated 450,000 abandoned and contaminated waste sites. As of March 2010, EPA’s brownfields assistance has leveraged more than $14 billion in cleanup and redevelopment funding, and 61,277 jobs in cleanup, construction, and redevelopment.
These investments and jobs target local, under-served and economically disadvantaged neighborhoods – places where environmental cleanups and new jobs are most needed. Cleaning up our communities is one of EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson’s priorities, which leads not only to health and environmental benefits but also economic development and prosperity.
In total, EPA is selecting 304 grants through the Brownfields Assessment, Revolving Loan Fund, and Cleanup Grants programs:
- 188 assessment grants, totaling $42.56 million, will conduct site assessment and planning for cleanup at one or more brownfields sites as part of a community-wide effort.
- 17 revolving loan fund grants, totaling $17 million, will provide loans and subgrants for communities to begin cleanup activities at brownfields sites. Revolving loan funds are generally used to provide low interest loans for brownfields cleanups.
- 99 cleanup grants, totaling $19.36 million, will provide funding for grant recipients to carryout cleanup activities at brownfield sites they own.
Since the beginning of the brownfields program in 1995, EPA has awarded 1,702 assessment grants totaling $401 million, 262 revolving loan fund grants totaling more than $256.7 million, and 655 cleanup grants totaling $129.4 million. As part of Administrator Jackson’s commitment to this program, the 2011 proposed budget includes an increase of $215 million for brownfields with a focus on planning, cleanup, job training and redevelopment.
In 2002, the Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act was passed. The brownfields law expanded the definition of what is considered a brownfield, so communities may now focus on mine-scarred lands, sites contaminated by petroleum, or sites contaminated as a result of manufacturing and distribution of illegal drugs (e.g. meth labs).
More information on EPA’s brownfields program, success stories, and FY 2010 grant recipients: http://www.epa.gov/brownfields
Nahal Mogharabi, (415) 947-4307, mogharabi.nahal (at) epa (dot) gov