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EPA Selects 4 Projects in Western Michigan to Receive $1.7 Million for Brownfields Cleanup and Assessment

05/06/2020
Contact Information: 
Allison Lippert (lippert.allison@epa.gov)
312-353-0967

GRAND RAPIDS/KALAMAZOO (May 06, 2020) – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is announcing that St. Joseph, Ottawa and Calhoun counties in western Michigan will receive a total of $1.7 million to assess and clean up contaminated properties under the agency’s Brownfields 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 jump-start the process by providing support for assessments and cleanups .” 

“I’m so pleased that the EPA’s Brownfields Program is providing such a significant grant that will support the local economy and provide for new opportunities here in St. Joseph County,” said U.S. Rep.  Fred Upton (MI-06). “The folks of Three Rivers and the neighboring communities are salt of the earth people, and during this difficult moment in our nation’s history where so many of us are facing new challenges, this grant funding is certainly a breath of good news for this region of our state.” 

”This EPA grant will help strengthen the environment as well as the economy across Ottawa County,” said U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga (MI-02). “Whether it is Harbor Island in Grand Haven or one of the other phase one or phase two locations, this grant will help the local economy by turning previously contaminated sites into viable sources of recreation and economic opportunity.” 

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. 

The grants awarded for projects in western Michigan are: 

$600,000 to Calhoun County Land Bank Authority 

The Calhoun County Land Bank Authority will use community-wide grant funds to conduct 17 Phase I and 15 Phase II environmental site assessments. Grant funds also will be used to update and prioritize a brownfields inventory, prepare at least four cleanup plans, and conduct community outreach activities. Assessment activities will focus on the Dickman Road Corridor in Battle Creek and the Gale/Brown area in Albion, both of which include Qualified Opportunity Zones. Priority sites include the SEMCO site within the Dickman Road area, and the Urban Renewal and Gale Industries/Brown Weld sites in the Gale/Brown area. Coalition partners are the Albion Brownfield Redevelopment Authority and the City of Battle Creek. 

“The Calhoun County Land Bank Authority is grateful for this grant from the EPA and we are eager to get to work with our coalition partners, the cities of Albion and Battle Creek, to assess environmental challenges in our County,” said Brian Wensauer, Calhoun County treasurer and chair of the Calhoun County Land Bank Authority Board of Directors. “We’re proud to partner with local municipalities to target properties that will make the greatest impact on our communities.” 

$500,000 to Calhoun County 

Calhoun County will use grant funds to clean up The Mound site located at 161 East Michigan Avenue in the City of Battle Creek. The site had historically been used for waste disposal by rail lines and residences and as a depository for excavated soil and fill materials from a nearby construction project. It has been vacant and unused since the early 1990s. It is contaminated with heavy metals, naphthalene, and TCE. Grant funds will also be used to support community outreach activities. 

“This project has been a long time coming and we are very pleased to be awarded the funds that will allow Calhoun County to clean up this site and position it for future redevelopment,” said Steve Frisbie, chair of the Calhoun County Board of Commissioners. “Calhoun County is proud to work with the EPA on this important project, which, when completed, will provide numerous benefits to the community.” 

$300,000 to Ottawa County 

Ottawa County will use community-wide grant funds to conduct 13 Phase I and nine Phase II environmental site assessments. Grant funds will also be used to update a brownfields inventory, prepare two cleanup plans, and conduct community involvement activities. Priority sites include the 10-acre Board of Light and Power property on Harbor Island in the City of Grand Haven and a 1.15-acre site containing former auto sales and service properties in the primary commercial corridor of the City of Hudsonville. 

“Ottawa County believes strongly in stewardship not only of our abundant natural resources, but also of taxpayer dollars,” said Al Vanderberg, County Administrator and Chair of the Ottawa County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority. “With this award from the US Environmental Protection Agency for brownfield site assessment, we will be able to leverage private investment and other incentives to cleanup brownfield sites and get them back into productive use, both in our target communities and across the County.” 

$300,000 to St. Joseph County 

St. Joseph County will use community-wide grant funds to conduct eight Phase I and eight Phase II environmental site assessments. Grant funds also will be used to conduct community involvement activities and develop cleanup and reuse plans. Assessment activities will focus on the City of Three Rivers downtown area, which is located in a Qualified Opportunity Zone. Priority sites include the Old Three Rivers Hospital; the vacant White House building, which operated as an appliance and furniture store, a manufacturer of hospital appliances, and an auto dealership; and a former Dodge Dealership. 

"St. Joseph County is thrilled to receive an EPA Brownfield Assessment grant,” said Teresa Doehring, St. Joseph County Administrator/Controller. “This funding will serve as a catalyst for redevelopment in our community, and in turn improve the vitality of our downtown areas, address housing needs, and eliminate blight. We look forward to partnering with the EPA in this critical initiative.” 

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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