Austin Resource Recovery Brownfields Program Set to Receive $400,000 in EPA Grant Funding
The City of Austin’s Brownfields Program will receive a boost from the United States Environmental Protection Agency to help identify properties in Austin that may be impacted with hazardous materials. On Friday, June 20, EPA Deputy Regional Administrator Sam Coleman will be in Austin to recognize the City as a recipient of $400,000 in grants to assess several potential brownfield sites throughout the city.
The US Environmental Protection Agency’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 property for which expansion, redevelopment, or reuse may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. Brownfields are in every community. There are social, environmental, and financial costs of not addressing them, such as lowering property values, being unsightly, facilitating crime and vandalism, and potentially impacting the environment. In 2002, the Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act was passed to help states and communities around the country clean up and revitalize brownfields sites. Under this law, the EPA provides financial assistance through four competitive grant programs: assessment grants, revolving loan fund grants, cleanup grants, and job training grants.
With the help of the Imagine Austin Comprehensive Plan, the Austin Resource Recovery Brownfield Program applied for the $400,000 in community assessment grant money to assess blighted and infill properties to fuel redevelopment and revitalization of up to 20 properties. The funds will be considered for approval through the City of Austin’s fiscal year 2015 budget process. Property assessments will begin in the fall of 2014, focusing on sites to be redeveloped as affordable housing, transit-oriented developments or urban parks and gardens.
Two phases of assessment are involved: Phase I identifies environmental concerns that could be an issue for either the environment or the user of the site, and Phase II will investigate those identified concerns, including the sampling and testing of groundwater, soil, air, surface water and building materials to determine if the property is impacted by contaminants. All assessments should be complete by 2017. Previous brownfields in Austin, such as the old Seaholm Power Plant, the Guadalupe Saldaña subdivision, and Plaza Saltillo, have been redeveloped to provide new mixed-use development, affordable housing and transit-oriented development.
Since the inception of the EPA’s Brownfields Program in 1995, cumulative brownfield program investments have leveraged more than $21 billion from a variety of public and private sources for cleanup and redevelopment activities. This equates to an average of $17.79 leveraged for every EPA brownfield dollar spent. These investments have resulted in approximately 93,000 jobs nationwide. These projects demonstrate the positive impact a small investment of federal brownfields funding can have on community revitalization by leveraging jobs, producing clean energy, and providing recreation opportunities for surrounding neighborhoods. EPA’s Brownfields Program empowers states, communities, and other stakeholders to work together to prevent, assess, safely clean up, and sustainably reuse brownfields sites.
Austin and Houston were the only two cities in the EPA’s five-state Region 6 to receive assessment grants. Austin Resource Recovery plans to apply for additional funding in the fall to help with the clean-up of those properties identified during the assessment phases. For more information, visit www.austintexas.gov/brownfields.