EPA grants awarded

MARQUETTE – The Marquette County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority will receive $400,000 in federal funding for brownfield site assessments through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Marquette County’s authority was the only one receiving the federal grant funding in the Upper Peninsula and one of 240 EPA grant recipients across the country. A total of $62.5 million was awarded nationwide through the competitive grant program.

“We were pretty excited to find out that we got it,” Marquette County Treasurer Anne Giroux said.

The county will receive $200,000 for assessment of petroleum sites and $200,000 for assessing sites containing hazardous materials.

“Marquette County submitted an outstanding grant proposal and we deeply appreciate the tremendous commitment of time and energy that went into its preparation,” David R. Lloyd, director of the EPA’s Office of Brownfields and Land Revitalization, said in a letter to the county board.

Lloyd said that through the Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act of 2002, the EPA is working to help states and communities around the country clean up and revitalize brownfield sites.

“We fully expect that these brownfield projects will provide benefits to the environment and economy of local communities,” Lloyd said.

The EPA’s Brownfields Program empowers states, communities and other stakeholders to work together to prevent, assess, safely clean up and sustainably reuse brownfields.

A brownfield site is real property where the expansion, redevelopment or reuse of that property may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant, according to the EPA.

In 2002, the Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act was approved to help states and communities clean up and revitalize brownfields sites. Under the law, EPA provides financial assistance to eligible applicants through four competitive grant programs: assessment grants, revolving loan fund grants, cleanup grants and job training grants. In addition, funding support is provided to state and tribal response programs through a separate mechanism.

Across Michigan, six downstate authorities also received assessment grants, another got a revolving loan fund grant and another received an EPA clean-up grant.

Under the two assessment grants Marquette County will receive, the hazardous funds money will be used to develop an inventory of potential brownfield sites and perform 10 Phase I and eight Phase II environmental site assessments.

Grant funds also will be used to prepare clean-up plans, conduct area-wide planning and support community outreach activities. Petroleum grant funds will be used to conduct the same tasks at sites with potential petroleum contamination, the EPA said.

“It’s not money for cleanup, but it’s that initial step that helps clean it up,” Giroux said. “This money helps developers who are interested in a brownfield site, to assess the situation.”

As an example, Giroux said $4,000 was recently spent to assess the condition of several structures to be torn down at K.I. Sawyer under a blight elimination effort. Had the EPA assessment funding been available to the authority at that time, some of the money could have been used for that required assessment.

“This EPA brownfield grant will help Marquette County assess contaminated sites so they can be cleaned up,” EPA Region 5 administrator Susan Hedman said. “This grant will help restore land to productive use and spur redevelopment.”

No specific sites have yet been slated for assessment, but the county authority’s grant application did mention potential locations could include K.I. Sawyer and the Ishpeming and Negaunee areas, where former mining activities have taken place.

The county planning department had previously been working with communities to develop a list of sites, prioritized for possible assessment, cleanup and redevelopment.

Giroux said the authority believes news of the grant could result in additional candidate sites being suggested.

“We’re hoping some of this spurs people in the communities to say, ‘What about this site?’ “Giroux said.

For more information, or to suggest a brownfield assessment site, contact Giroux at 225-8425.

John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. His email address is jpepin@miningjournal.net