In May of 2022, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that 227 communities were selected to receive 237 grant awards for a total of $147.5 million in Brownfields Assessment, Revolving Loan Fund, and Cleanup Grant funding. The purpose of these grants is to assess, clean up, and redevelop underutilized properties in the community and aid in protecting public health as well as the environment.
According to the EPA, a brownfield is classified as a property where the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. Redevelopment made possible through the program includes everything from grocery stores and affordable housing to health centers, museums, greenways, and solar farms.
Each year, PM Environmental (PM) assists communities throughout Michigan and the Mid-South with the EPA brownfield grant applications. Of the 237 EPA grants awarded totaling $147.5 million, five PM clients were awarded $2.45 million in Brownfields Assessment Grants. The EPA selection process is highly competitive, with a historic national average of around 48%. This year, PM experienced an 83%-win rate, well above the nationwide average.
"All of these regions have a similar goal, which is to grow and diversify their economies and communities,” said PM’s National Manager of Brownfields and Economic Incentives, John Hargraves. “However, their challenges and means to arrive there are different. These grants are steps forward in bringing back brownfields to successful reuse. The PM staff thanks all these groups for teaming with us and putting in the hard work necessary to submit a winning application.”
PM’s clients who received 2022 grants include:
Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham, Birmingham, AL
The Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham strives to improve communities. They provide planning services, economic development services, and multiple initiatives for six counties and 84 communities throughout central Alabama. Their goal is to provide opportunities and cost-effective solutions to make lives better.
Funds from the $500,000 grant will be used to conduct 17 Phase I and 14 Phase II environmental site assessments (ESAs) and three cleanup plans. In addition, funds will also be used to conduct community involvement activities. The target areas for this grant include Tuxedo Junction – a two-block stretch within Ensley (a historically Black neighborhood within the City of Birmingham), Indian Head Mill Village in the City of Cordova, and Warrior River Industries east of downtown Cordova. Along with these target areas, priority sites include the Belcher-Nixon building, Indian Head Mill, and the 47-acre Horsecreek Run.
City of the Village of Douglas, Douglas, MI
The City of Douglas, located in Allegan County Michigan, is a small lakeshore community. Though the city tends to be a tourist destination, the properties along Blue Star Highway are more industrial in nature. The city has been awarded a $500,000 EPA Cleanup Grant. The grant will be used to clean up the single 7.18-acre parcel located at 200 Blue Star Highway. Historically, the property was a fallow orchard until 1940. Since then, it has been used for plating, buffing, zinc die casting, metal forming, stamping, phosphatizing, painting metal parts, and furniture manufacturing and is contaminated with PCBs, chlorinated volatile organic hydrocarbons, and inorganic contaminants. Funds will also be used to develop a Community Involvement Plan as well as to conduct community engagement activities.
Golden Triangle Planning and Development District, Inc., Starkville, MS
Golden Triangle Planning and Development District, Inc. was formed in 1971 with the goal to improve economic development and civic improvement in the Appalachian counties of Choctaw, Clay, Lowndes, Noxubee, Oktibbeha, Webster, and Winston in Mississippi.
The Golden Triangle Planning and Development District, Inc. has received a $500,000 EPA Assessment Grant. The funds will be used to update a brownfield site inventory and conduct 21 Phase I and 14 Phase II environmental site assessments as well as develop five cleanup plans and support community outreach activities. The grant would target the MLK Drive Corridor located in the City of Starkville as well as the retail district in the City of Columbus. Priority sites within the target area include a former gas station, a 2.25-acre block composed of 10 parcels and 14 underutilized and vacant buildings, and a 30-acre shopping mall.
City of Bolivar, Bolivar, TN
The City of Bolivar is a lovely gem with small-town appeal. The city boasts historical properties and several historic districts. To enhance this town’s beautification, it has been granted $500,000 for a Brownfields Assessment Grant. The grant funds will be used to conduct eight Phase I and seven Phase II ESAs. Funds will also be used to prepare three cleanup plans and three site reuse plans, conduct up to three design charrettes, as well as support community outreach activities. The North Main Street Corridor and Central Illinois Railway Corridor are the target areas with priority sites including a 155-acre former tannery that has been closed since 1988, and the Illinois Central Rail, an abandoned railroad that passes through several residential neighborhoods and ends in downtown Bolivar.
Woodland Community Land Trust, Clairfield, TN
The second-oldest community land trust in the United States, the Woodland Community Land Trust has been selected for an EPA Brownfields Assessment Grant. This charitable organization focuses on low- and moderate-income housing. Funds from the $450,000 grant will be used to conduct 12 Phase I and 8 Phase II ESAs. Grant funds also will be used to develop three cleanup plans and three site reuse plans, host up to three design charrettes, and support community outreach activities. Historically known for coal mining operations, Tennessee's Clearfork Valley is the target area with priority sites including a former coal mining camp in the community of Eagan, a 20-acre coal settling pond in the community of Clairfield, and an 18-acre former childcare center in the community of Duff.
While these five recipients 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.