Every year, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awards more than $4 billion in funding for grants and other assistance programs across the United States. For 2021, the EPA selected 151 communities to receive 154 brownfield, multipurpose, assessment, and cleanup grant awards totaling $66.5 million. A Brownfield is classified as real property where the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant.
According to the EPA, “to date, communities participating in the Brownfields Program have been able to attract more than $34.4 billion in cleanup and redevelopment funding after receiving Brownfields funds.” In fact, this funding has led to over 175,500 jobs in the projects’ cleanup, construction, and redevelopment. This year, five of PM Environmental’s (PM) clients were awarded funding totaling a combined $2 million.
“These 5 communities and coalition partners have a forward vision. This funding will be used as additional steppingstones for future development successes,” said PM’s National Manager of Brownfields and Economic Incentives, John Hargraves. “Everyone in PM’s Economic Incentives Department, as well as other staff, were involved. We worked with each applicant to collect the stories of the communities, research data, visit potential sites and interview stakeholders, as well as perform community engagement. “
The EPA selection process is highly competitive with a nationwide win-rate of only 37%. This year, PM experienced a 56% win-rate, an historic average for the company and well above the national average. These grants will provide added opportunities for communities to leverage additional funds, as well as create tax revenue and jobs. Below is a little more information on just where these communities are located, where the money will be used, and how the funding will impact those who live there.
Top of Alabama Regional Council of Governments (TARCOG), Scottsboro, Alabama
Scottsboro is a city located in Jackson County, Alabama. The city was incorporated in 1870 and became the largest community in the county in 1890. It eventually lost that title to Bridgeport, Alabama in 1920 but regained it again in 1930.
The city was awarded an EPA Assessment Grant for Fiscal Year 2021 which will be used to develop an inventory of brownfield sites and conduct three Phase I and three Phase II Environmental Site Assessments (ESAs). These ESAs will be used to target priority sites. An additional 16 Phase I and 11 Phase II ESAs will be conducted at secondary sites. PM will assist in the preparation of various brownfield plans that will be used to target the Willow Street Corridor, which is located just north of downtown Scottsboro. This area includes Proctor Warehouse and the Word Lumber Company. The $600,000 grant is the first EPA Brownfield Assessment Grant for TARCOG and the City.
The target properties within the target area are expected to produce numerous job opportunities. Based on economic impact studies, the Proctor Warehouse will create 69 jobs and redevelop the building. It will provide walkability for sensitive populations, an estimated $5,500,000 in private investment, increased sales and property taxes and a public pocket park. The Word Lumber Company property is expected to create 71 jobs, improved walkability for sensitive populations, various retail, restaurant, storage, office spaces, a revitalized public alleyway, and an estimated $7,200,000 in private investment.
City of Yazoo City, Mississippi
The City of Yazoo City, which was previously awarded two EPA Assessment Grants with PM’s assistance, was awarded its third grant, a Cleanup Grant, totaling $250,000. The grant will be used to clean up the Afro-American Sons and Daughters Hospital site which is contaminated with inorganic contaminants. Funds will also be used to support community involvement activities.
Due to the important history of the property, steps will be taken to memorialize the property’s past. Specific steps will be explored during the project.
Campbell County / Anderson County / NE Tennessee Railroad Authority Coalition Assessment
This coalition, led by Campbell County, Tennessee has been selected for an EPA Brownfields Assessment Grant. Funds from the $600,000 grant will be used to conduct five Phase I and five Phase II ESAs at priority sites, as well as 21 Phase I and 12 Phase II ESAs at secondary sites. Grant funds will also be used to prepare 10 cleanup plans and conduct community outreach activities, focusing on the City of Rocky Top and the Tennessee Railroad Corridor. Within the City of Rocky Top, the grant would target a former grocery store. With the only grocery store in the area closing its doors in 2018, the City of Rocky Top faced a loss of 18 jobs and residents travelling 40 minutes or more for fresh food options.
Based on economic models, redevelopment could create 30 jobs from priority sites within the Tennessee Railroad target area and 20 jobs from priority sites within the City of Rocky Top. It will eliminate a food desert and create 20,300 square feet of retail space as well as 12,000 square feet of commercial space. Finally, within the Tennessee Railroad target area, the grant can assess railroad right-of-way as part of a plan to create 15 miles of biking, hiking, and equestrian trails with increased recreational opportunities.
Lake Cumberland Area Development District, Burkesville, Kentucky
The Lake Cumberland Area Development District led coalition with Cumberland County, Kentucky and the City of Burkesville, Kentucky has received a $300,000 EPA Brownfield Assessment Coalition Grant. The funds will be used to develop a site inventory, conduct eight Phase I and four Phase II ESAs, as well as prepare four cleanup plans and one area-wide plan. Grant funds will also be available for community outreach activities and focus on Main Street’s Downtown Square and Veterans Memorial Park District in the City of Burkesville.
The Downtown Square consists of grouped storefronts and the County Courthouse. 40% of these buildings are vacant with the remaining businesses facing the struggle of a declining population. Along the rest of Main Street are churches, single-family homes, and commercial buildings. The Veterans Memorial Park District is 45-acres and provides access to the Cumberland River. The park contains five sports fields, a playground, ball courts, a community center, and an amphitheater. Around the park are former light industrial properties, many of which are brownfields, and various residential properties.
City of Dunlap, Tennessee
The City of Dunlap has been granted $300,000 for a Brownfields Assessment Grant. The grant funds will be used to conduct six Phase I and Phase II ESAs. Funds will also be used to prepare six cleanup plans as well as community outreach activities. A one-mile section of the Rankin Avenue Corridor between State and Main Streets is the target area with priority sites including the former Dunlap Industries facility, a former automotive service garage, a former gas station, the former Dunlap High School, and the former Health Department building.
The Black Cat Tire Exchange occupies three storefronts that were used for automotive sales and services. The property is currently suspected to be contaminated with petroleum products and hazardous substances. The Former Amoco and Auto Care property is a former gas station that likely has underground storage tanks (USTs). The Old Dunlap High School was shut down roughly 10 years ago when the City shifted to a regional county school service. The building likely contains asbestos containing materials (ACMs) and other hazardous materials. The City is currently looking to repurpose the property into a community center or Boys & Girls Club/YMCA facility. Finally, the Former Health Department Building is a county-owned property currently being partially occupied by various non-profits. The county is interested in renovating the building to attract new tenants and potentially use it to host job fairs. This is the first EPA Brownfields Assessment Grant for the City of Dunlap.
While they may be diverse in location, they all share a common need for revitalization and redevelopment. A great deal of thought, planning, and understanding of the needs of the community have gone into each of these plans to ensure the best possible outcomes.