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EPA Brownfields Grants Will Assist Rhode Island Communities with Site Assessments and Clean-up

EPA Grants Help Return Blighted Properties to Productive Reuse and Promote Economic Redevelopment

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David Deegan (

BOSTON - Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that Providence and Woonsocket, R.I. are among 144 communities across the United States to benefit from EPA funding for brownfield site revitalization efforts.

EPA intends to award Brownfields grants to the following groups for work in Rhode Island:

  • ARTech Hub, in Woonsocket, with a $200,000 Cleanup Grant to remove contaminants at Brenner Bros. Scrap Iron Yard;
  • MSC Realty Inc., with a $600,000 Cleanup Grant to remove contaminants from the former Hook-Fast Specialties site; and
  • City of Providence, with a $300,000 Community-wide Assessment Grant.

The R.I. based grantees are among 221 grants awarded nationwide, totaling $54.3 million. The EPA Brownfields funding will provide communities with funding to assess, clean up and redevelop underutilized properties while protecting public health and the environment.

"EPA's Brownfields Program expands the ability of communities to recycle vacant and abandoned properties for new, productive reuses, using existing infrastructure," said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. "These grants leverage other public and private investments, and improve local economies through property cleanup and redevelopment."

EPA’s Brownfields grants to Rhode Island this year are among another significant annual investment by EPA to help New England communities address brownfield properties. Across the six New England states this year, EPA is awarding 26 grants totaling $8.35 million, which will help up to 75 communities undertake work assessing or cleaning brownfields.

"EPA is very proud of our robust and effective Brownfields program here in New England," said Alexandra Dunn, regional administrator of EPA's New England office. "EPA Brownfields funding has made a tangible and lasting difference in hundreds of communities, helping citizens and civic leaders to revitalize abandoned or underutilized properties, and return them to productive use for people to enjoy."

"Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of accompanying Alex Dunn on a tour of revitalized Brownfield sites in the Valley and Olneyville neighborhoods of Providence - prime examples of longtime support that since 1994 has seen EPA fund more than $40 million into once-idle, contaminated sites throughout Rhode Island," said Janet Coit, director of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM). "These many grants have leveraged private investment and supported jobs. Earth Week is about stewardship and restoration. I’m delighted by the timing of EPA’s announcement and appreciate their latest show of support."

ARTech Hub LLC was selected for a $200,000 for hazardous substances Brownfields cleanup grant to clean up the Brenner Bros. Scrap Iron Yard located at Island Place in Woonsocket. The 0.5-acre cleanup site was developed prior to 1892 and originally served as a varnish manufacturer. From the early 1900s through the 1950s, it was occupied by the Brenner Bros. Scrap Iron Yard, and then was used as a parking lot until the 1970s. It has been vacant since. The site is contaminated with metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Grant funds also will be used to conduct three public meetings and prepare three public outreach materials to communicate site status and outcomes.

"This funding serves as the critical last piece of support enabling us to clean up four sites in the Millrace District of Woonsocket, R.I. It lays the groundwork for a 24-million-dollar mixed-use redevelopment with 58 units of affordable housing and 28,000 square feet of neighborhood office space and retail, right along the Blackstone River. The money puts back into productive use contaminated industrial sites that once employed hundreds of people right at the gateway to Main Street," said Joe Garlick, Executive Director of ARTech Hub LLC.

MSC Realty Inc. was selected for three brownfields cleanup grants totally $600,000. The funds will be used to clean up the former Hook-Fast Specialties site located at 58 Seymour Street in Providence. From the early 1980s to the early 2000s, the site was operated as a soldering business, metals plating shop, oil company, and meeting center. It currently is vacant and is contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and chlorinated volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Grant funds also will be used to clean up lot 153 and lot 810 on plat 47 at the former National Plating Property located at 946 Eddy Street in Providence. The property was used as an automotive junkyard in the 1950s, and was later operated as an automotive repair shop and dealership, and used for electroplating operations. It currently is vacant and contaminated with metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and chlorinated volatile organic compounds. Grant funds also will be used to monitor the health of the public surrounding the sites, and conduct community outreach and engagement activities.

"Meeting Street is honored to have been selected to steward the cleanup and redevelopment of three brownfields in Lower South Providence, expanding our total neighborhood remediation efforts to eleven acres. We look forward to continuing to work with the EPA and our community partners to create a space that supports the growth of Meeting Street’s early childhood development and education programs," said John Kelley, President of MSC Realty Inc.

The City of Providence was selected for two brownfields assessment grants. A $200,000 Community-wide hazardous substances grant will be used to conduct four "Phase I" and three "Phase II" environmental site assessments, and develop two reuse and cleanup plans. A $100,000 Community-wide petroleum grant will be used to conduct four "Phase I" and two "Phase II" environmental site assessments, and develop two reuse and cleanup plans. Grant funds of both types also will be used to conduct community outreach activities, provide translations of outreach materials, and review and maintain an inventory of sites. Assessment activities will focus on the Woonasquatucket River Corridor.

"This grant will allow Providence to maintain the momentum building in the Woonasquatucket River Corridor and in Olneyville," said Providence Mayor Jorge O. Elorza. "We are very excited to receive this support from the EPA as it will help create jobs and bring this area back to life."

In New England, since the beginning of the Brownfields program, EPA has awarded 382 assessment grants totaling $110.5 million, 75 revolving loan fund grants and supplemental funding totaling $102.9 million and 290 cleanup grants totaling $71.8 million. These grant funds have paved the way for more than $2.9 billion in public and private cleanup and redevelopment investment and for over 18,100 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. Cleaning up and reinvesting in these properties increases local tax bases, facilitates job growth, utilizes existing infrastructure, takes development pressures away from undeveloped, open land, and both improves and protects the environment.

The EPA Brownfields Program targets communities that are economically disadvantaged and provides funding and assistance to transform contaminated sites into assets that can generate jobs and spur economic growth. A study analyzing 48 Brownfields sites found that an estimated $29 million to $97 million in additional tax revenue was generated for local governments 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 brownfield sites. Another study found that property values of homes located near brownfield sites that are cleaned up increased between 5 and 15 percent post cleanup.

Communities can use EPA Brownfields funding to leverage considerable infrastructure and other financial resources. For example, EPA’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund can be used to address the water quality aspects of brownfield sites and the assessment and construction of drinking water infrastructure on brownfields, respectively. EPA’s Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program may also serve as a potential source of long-term, low-cost supplemental financing to fund brownfield project development and implementation activities to address water quality aspects of brownfields.

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