Daily News

Berkshire Brownfields Program Announces $3.5 Million in Funding

PITTSFIELD — Berkshire Regional Planning Commission (BRPC) announced $3.5 million in supplemental funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to recapitalize its existing Brownfield Revolving Loan Fund (RLF).

The EPA previously provided $7.6 million in RLF funds to the program. BRPC was selected to receive additional funds because it has a high-performing RLF program with significantly depleted funds due to frequent activity. The RLF program has successfully made loans or subgrants, leading to 12 cleanup projects that are either completed or in progress.

“The Brownfields Revolving Loan Fund is a critical economic-development tool in our region,” BRPC Executive Director Tom Matuszko said. “In many cases, we’re filling gaps in a project’s financing that makes it possible to expand or redevelop locations that then provide housing or employment opportunities where they are most needed.”

The fund lends to private, public, and nonprofit entities for cleanup activities at sites contaminated by petroleum or other hazardous substances, pollutants, or contaminants. Municipalities and nonprofits may also be eligible for subgrants from the fund, usually after participating in a phased brownfield assessment program also operated by BRPC.

“Our assessment program lifts the veil of uncertainty from sites, offering answers regarding levels of contamination and, in some fortunate cases, proving that no contamination exists, encouraging private investment and reuse of a site,” said Melissa Provencher, Environmental and Energy Program manager at BRPC.

Additional Berkshire County grants were awarded to projects in North Adams and include $1.9 million to clean up the former Tannery Dump located on Ashton Avenue and $1.863 million for cleanup at the Greylock Flume property.

The tannery dumping site contains a 1.5-acre, 10-foot-high mound of leather scraps that abuts the Hoosic River and is contaminated with heavy metals. Extreme storms have exposed the layers of leather on the riverbank. The flume property is located on State Road, a 7.8-acre former textile mill location that housed 10 above-ground storage tanks and 30 former dip tank drums. It is contaminated with sulfuric acids, phosphoric acid, sodium hydroxide, nitric acid, metals, PCBs, and inorganic contaminants. BRPC staff provided assistance in preparing applications for both site-specific awards and will serve as grant manager for the Tannery site project.