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EPA awards City of Rockford $275,000 to clean up former Rockford Watch Factory, Lloyds Hearing Building

Part of $1.2 Million for Brownfield Cleanups in Illinois

05/06/2020
Contact Information: 
Francisco Arcaute (arcaute.francisco@epa.gov)
312-886-7613, 312-898-2042 cell

For Immediate Release No. 20-OPA-042

ROCKFORD, Ill. (May 6, 2020) Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is announcing that the City of Rockford will receive $275,000 to assess and clean up a contaminated property under the Agency’s Brownfield’s Program. Under President Trump’s Administration, EPA has delivered approximately $287 million in Brownfield grants directly to communities and nonprofits for cleanup and redevelopment, job creation, and economic development through the award of over 948 grants.

“These communities are ready to move forward with redevelopment, they just lacked the funding to take that next step,” said EPA Regional Administrator Kurt Thiede. “EPA’s Brownfields grants help jumpstart the process by providing for assessments and cleanups.”

“The Illinois EPA, on behalf of this year’s Brownfield grantees, appreciates U.S. EPA’s continuing financial support to advance the environmental investigation, cleanup, and redevelopment of brownfields sites in Illinois.” said Illinois EPA Director John J. Kim.  “We look forward to partnering with these municipalities as they work to improve their communities by making these sites once again available for productive use.”  

“Cleaning up contaminated sites is an important step in protecting the children’s health—and the health of all Illinoisans—but it also helps spur development, job creation and economic growth in our state,” U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth said. “As a founder of the Senate’s first Environmental Justice Caucus, I have pushed for more funding for the Brownfields program and to help low-income communities face the public health challenges they are disproportionately affected by. I’ll continue working to ensure all of our communities can breathe clean air and live in a safe environment without fear of toxins and pollution.”

“I’m pleased to see these funds come back to our community to ensure Rockford is both safe and ready for business. As a member of the Appropriations Committee, investing in our communities is a top priority,” said U.S. Rep.  Cheri Bustos (IL-17). “Today’s announcement will help establish long term roots for economic success in Rockford as they look to leverage these federal dollars. I’ll keep working alongside our local community leaders so Rockford continues to be a great place to live, work and raise a family.”

Nationwide, this year, the agency is announcing the selection of 155 grants for communities and tribes totaling over $65.6 million in EPA brownfields funding the agency’s Assessment, Revolving Loan Fund, and Cleanup Grant Programs. These funds will aid under-served and economically disadvantaged communities, including neighborhoods located in Opportunity Zones, in assessing and cleaning up abandoned industrial and commercial properties. An Opportunity Zone is an economically-distressed community where new investment, under certain conditions, may be eligible for preferential tax treatment. Of the 151 total communities selected, 118 of these communities can potentially assess or clean up brownfield sites in census tracts designated in these zones. In addition, nearly 30% of the communities selected today will receive brownfields funding for the first time.

EPA also awarded the Cities of Chicago and Peoria each $500,000 bringing a total of more than $1.2 million in federal brownfield funding to Illinois. 

“The City of Rockford is thrilled to have been awarded this cleanup grant that will allow us to continue addressing brownfields in our community,” said Thomas P McNamara, Mayor, City of Rockford. “As one of the original US EPA Brownfields Pilot Programs in 1999, we recognize the immeasurable value of these grants as being true catalysts for successful and sustainable redevelopment. Our 21year partnership with US EPA has not only benefited our community economically, but more importantly has improved livability for our residents.”

EPA awarded Rockford $275,000 to clean up the former Rockford Watch Factory, 325 South Madison Street, and the former Lloyds Hearing Building, 128 Kishwaukee Street. Located within a Qualified Opportunity Zone, the former Rockford Watch Factory was built in the late 19th century and has been vacant since 2014. It is contaminated with metals and inorganic contaminants. Grant funds also will be used to clean up the former Lloyds Hearing Building, which has been vacant and deteriorating for the past 13 years. Soils at the site are contaminated with polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons and metals. Grant funds also will be used to support community involvement activities.

Grants awarded by EPA’s Brownfields 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 are 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.

Background

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 United States.  EPA’s Brownfields Program began in 1995 and has provided nearly $1.6 billion in brownfield grants to assess and clean up contaminated properties and return blighted properties to productive reuse. To date, brownfields investments have leveraged more than $31 billion in cleanup and redevelopment. Over the years, the relatively small investment of federal funding, from both public and private sources, leveraged more than 160,000 jobs.

The next National Brownfields Training Conference will be held on April 26-30, 2021, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Offered every two years, this conference is the largest gathering of stakeholders focused on cleaning up and reusing former commercial and industrial properties. EPA co-sponsors this event with the International City/County Management Association.

List of the FY 2020 applicants selected for funding: https://www.epa.gov/brownfields/applicants-selected-fy-2020-brownfields-assessment-revolving-loan-fund-and-cleanup-0

For more on the brownfields grants: https://www.epa.gov/brownfields/types-brownfields-grant-funding

For more on EPA’s Brownfields Program: https://www.epa.gov/brownfields

For more information about EPA’s role in Opportunity Zones: https://www.epa.gov/opportunity-zones

For information on the studies related to the Brownfields Program’s environmental and economic benefits: https://www.epa.gov/brownfields/brownfields-program-environmental-and-economic-benefits

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