Environment and Engineering Sections

Brownfield Funding Aims to Promote Economic Redevelopment

Raising Their Sites

The U.S. Envirommental Protection Agency (EPA) recently awarded 14 communities in Massachusetts — most of them in Western Mass. — grants totaling $4.92 million for brownfield site revitalization and technical assistance. These communities are among 172 across the country to receive EPA brownfields funding.

Nationwide, a total of $56.8 million has been awarded by EPA to fund selected recipients for brownfield site assessment and cleanup as initial steps toward redeveloping vacant and unused properties, transforming them to productive reuse that will benefit communities and local economies.

EPA’s brownfields grants and assistance to Massachusetts this year are among other significant annual investments by EPA to help New England communities address brownfield properties. The awards in Massachusetts (to be distributed community-wide, except where noted) include:

• Belchertown Economic Development Industrial Corp. ($400,000 for cleanup at the former Belchertown State School site);

• Berkshire Regional Planning Commission ($300,000 for site assessment);

• Chicopee ($600,000 for cleanup of the former Uniroyal complex);

• Framingham ($300,000 for site assessment);

• Great Barrington ($300,000 for site assessment);

• Lawrence ($350,000 for site assessment, $200,000 for cleanup, and $200,000 for job training);

• Ludlow Mills ($120,000 for technical assistance);

• Lynn Economic Development Industrial Corp. ($300,000 for site assessment and $200,000 for cleanup);

• Merrimack Valley Planning Commission ($300,000 for site assessment);

• New Bedford ($200,000 for cleanup of the former Polyply facility);

• North Adams ($300,000 for site assessment);

• Seekonk ($350,000 for assessment of the former Attleboro Dye Works site);

• Williamstown ($200,000 for cleanup of the former Photech Imaging Systems site); and

• Worcester ($300,000 for site assessment).

Across the six New England states this year, EPA is awarding a total of $10.4 million for 32 communities to assess or clean brownfields, as well as $750,000 for technical assistance to six communities. A brownfield is a property for which the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.

There are estimated to be more than 450,000 brownfields in the U.S. Cleaning up and reinvesting in these properties increases local tax bases, facilitates job growth, utilizes existing infrastructure, takes development pressures off undeveloped land, and both improves and protects the environment.

“EPA is committed to working with communities to redevelop brownfields sites which have plagued their neighborhoods. EPA’s assessment and cleanup grants target communities that are economically disadvantaged and include places where environmental cleanup and new jobs are most needed,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “These grants leverage considerable infrastructure and other investments, improving local economies and creating an environment where jobs can grow. I am very pleased the president’s budget recognizes the importance of these grants by providing continued funding for this important program.”

Continued Attention

In New England, since the beginning of the brownfields program, EPA has awarded 382 assessment grants totaling $103.9 million, 73 revolving-loan-fund grants and supplemental funding totaling $90 million, and 290 cleanup grants totaling $69.9 million. These grant funds have paved the way for more than $2.4 billion in public and private cleanup and redevelopment investment and for nearly 15,499 jobs in assessment, cleanup, construction, and redevelopment. These investments and jobs target local, underserved, and economically disadvantaged neighborhoods — places where environmental cleanups and new jobs are most needed.

Nationwide, about $17.5 million of the latest round of assessment and cleanup funding will benefit small and rural communities with populations of less than 10,000. Approximately $25 million will go to communities receiving assessment and cleanup funding for the first time. Selected recipients will each receive between $200,000 and $600,000 in funding to work on individual sites or several sites within the community. These funds will provide communities with necessary resources to determine the extent of site contamination, remove environmental uncertainties, and clean up contaminated properties where needed. Brownfields assessment and cleanup activities represent a stride toward realizing a site’s full potential, while protecting public health and the environment.

Chelsea site during and after cleanup and redevelopment at the former Lawrence Metals Site

For example, the site where a former industrial and textile manufacturing company operated in Chelsea is in the center of the city, where more than 45,000 people live within a one-mile radius. Hundreds of Chelsea High School students walk by the property every day. After all the manufacturing operations, the site was contaminated with PCBs and other contaminants. An EPA team involving multiple EPA cleanup programs, including brownfields investment, worked closely with the city and state to create a multi-party-funded cleanup and redevelopment opportunity. The development expanded the presence of lodging services in the Chelsea downtown with the building of the Homewood Suites Boston Logan Airport Chelsea Hotel.

Addressing and cleaning up sites, like those in the Chelsea neighborhood, across the nation will ultimately boost local economies and leverage redevelopment jobs while protecting public health and the environment, the EPA notes. Brownfield sites are community assets because of their locations and associated infrastructure advantages. Studies have shown that residential property values near brownfields sites that are cleaned up increase between 5% and 15%.

The study also determined that brownfield cleanup can increase overall property values within a one-mile radius. A study analyzing data near 48 brownfield sites shows that an estimated $29 million to $97 million in additional tax revenue was generated for local governments in a single year after cleanup. This is two to seven times more than the $12.4 million the EPA contributed to the cleanup of those brownfields.

There are an estimated 450,000 abandoned and contaminated waste sites in America. As of May 2017, more than 124,759 jobs and $24 billion of public and private funding has been leveraged as a result of assessment grants and other EPA brownfields grants. On average, $16.11 was leveraged for each EPA brownfields dollar, and 8.5 jobs leveraged per $100,000 of EPA brownfields funds expended on assessment, cleanup, and revolving-loan-fund cooperative agreements.