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EPA Announces that Woonsocket R.I. Selected for $300,000 Brownfields Assessment Grant

06/05/2019
Contact Information: 
David Deegan (deegan.dave@epa.gov)
617-918-1017

WOONSOCKET, R.I. - Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is announcing that the City of Woonsocket, Rhode Island has been selected to receive $300,000 in EPA Brownfields assessment funding and technical assistance.

Woonsocket is selected among 151 grants awarded nationwide, totaling $64.6 million. The EPA Brownfields funding will provide communities with funding to assess underutilized and possibly contaminated properties that are being considered for redevelopment.

"These grants fulfill several of President Trump’s top priorities simultaneously: helping communities in need transform contaminated sites into community assets that not only create jobs and jumpstart economic development but also improve public health and the environment," said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. "We are targeting these funds to areas that need them the most. Approximately 40 percent of the selected recipients are receiving Brownfields grants for the first time, which means we are reaching areas that may previously been neglected, and 108 of the selected communities have identified sites or targeted areas for redevelopment that fall within Opportunity Zones."

The funds will aid the City of Woonsocket in performing seven environmental site assessments and prepare two cleanup plans within the community. The target area for these efforts is the 180-acre Riverfront Development District, a heavily industrialized corridor that includes large, partially repurposed, vacant, or demolished mill complexes located on the banks of the Blackstone River.

"In addition to Woonsocket, communities across New England will benefit from EPA Brownfields funding," said EPA New England Acting Regional Administrator Deb Szaro. "Brownfields funding jump starts environmental cleanup at contaminated properties allowing them to be re-developed to benefit the community and its residents.

The EPA’s Brownfields grant for Woonsocket this year is among other significant annual investments by EPA to help New England communities to address brownfield properties. Across the six New England states this year, EPA is awarding a total of $11.6 million for over 30 communities to assess or clean contaminated brownfields sites.

"Congratulations to Woonsocket! It’s great to see the City win such a highly competitive grant," said Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management Director Janet Coit. "Transforming contaminated sites and urban eyesores into clean, productive spaces that generate jobs, create affordable housing, and connect communities benefit our state and families many times over. DEM appreciates EPA’s partnership in revitalizing brownfield sites."

Grants awarded by EPA’s Brownfield Program provide communities across the country with an opportunity to transform contaminated sites into community assets that attract jobs and achieve broader economic development outcomes while taking advantage of existing infrastructure. For example, Brownfields grants have been shown to:

  • Increase Local Tax Revenue: A study of 48 brownfields sites found that an estimated $29 million to $97 million in additional local tax revenue was generated in a single year after cleanup. This is two to seven times more than the $12.4 million EPA contributed to the cleanup of these sites.
  • Increase Residential Property Values: Another study found that property values of homes near revitalized brownfields sites increased between 5 and 15% following cleanup.

"I am truly excited to join as EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler announces over $64 million in Brownfield funding," said Scott Turner, Executive Director of the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council. "The Brownfields grant program is a tremendous vehicle for bringing real revitalization and transformation to the distressed communities of America. As the Executive Director of the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council I am pleased that EPA continues to support the Council and the President’s work in this area. In fact, of the 149 communities selected for these grants, 108 will benefit communities with Opportunity Zones. I look forward to seeing the impact that these grants will have on neighborhoods and citizens across the country."

Background

In New England, since the beginning of the Brownfields program, EPA has awarded $114 million in assessment grant funding, $109 million in revolving loan fund grants and supplemental funding and $75 million in cleanup grant funding. These grant funds have paved the way for more than $3.18 billion in public and private cleanup and redevelopment investment and for over 20,806 jobs in assessment, cleanup, construction and redevelopment.

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. As of May 2019, under the EPA Brownfields Program 30,153 properties have been assessed, and 86,131 acres of idle land have been made ready for productive use. In addition, communities have been able to use Brownfields grants to leverage 150,120 jobs and more than $28 billion of public and private funding.

In 2018 Congress reauthorized the statutory authority for the Brownfields Program. The reauthorization included changes to the program to expand the list of entities eligible for Brownfields grants, increase the limit of individual Brownfields cleanup grants to $500,000, and add grant authority for Multipurpose grants. These important changes will help communities address and cleanup more complex brownfield sites.

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