EPA Issues Record Grant for Brownfield Redevelopment

EPA Issues Record Grant for Brownfield Redevelopment

The U.S. EPA announced a record payout of more than $75 million to clean up brownfield sites, which, it says, will turn them from problem properties to productive community use. Communities in 42 states as well as Puerto Rico will share the fund.

The grants were announced by EPA administrator Mike Leavitt at the site of a former metal foundry in Milwaukee, itself being redeveloped as a light industry business park.

"Brownfields like this are a blight on thousands of cities, towns and rural areas across the country," Leavitt said. "We're helping turn these eyesores into opportunities, bringing new life to communities and cities, everything from new jobs and new housing to new shopping opportunities and new recreational facilities."

In total, 219 applicants, including five tribal nations, were selected to receive the funds. The $75.4 million will provide grants for assessment and clean up, as well as for revolving loan funds. Revolving funds are generally used to provide low or zero interest loans for brownfield cleanups.

America has an estimated 450,000 abandoned and contaminated waste sites. Since the beginning of the brownfields program, the EPA has awarded 554 assessment grants totaling over $145 million, 171 revolving loan fund grants totaling over $145 million and 66 clean-up grants totaling over $11.4 million.

Despite this latest fund, environmental groups have criticized the Bush administration for decreasing the funding to clean up programs which they say dropped by 50% in 2003. In January this year, the inspector general of the EPA published a report saying there was a $175 million shortfall in funds for the hazardous waste clean up program.

In March, 16 communities received job training grants of $2.47 million to teach environmental cleanup job skills to 1,080 individuals living in low-income areas near brownfield sites. So far, the EPA says, more than 60% of those who have completed training have obtained employment in the environmental field.