EPA awards $600,000 grant for brownfields assessments to Brooke-Hancock regional planning council

EPA awards $600,000 grant for brownfields assessments to Brooke-Hancock regional planning council

  • by LINDA HARRIS lharris@statejournal.com

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded a $600,000 grant to the Brooke-Hancock Region IX Regional Planning & Development Council for brownfields assessments on both sides of the state line.

The 2017 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Brownfields Coalition Assessment Grant will benefit Brooke and Hancock counties in West Virginia and Jefferson County in Ohio. Specific sites in Newell, New Cumberland, Wellsburg, Toronto, Steubenville and Mingo Junction will be targeted.

The $600,000 grant is the maximum allowed and will assist in the environmental assessment and eventual repurposing of potentially contaminated properties within the tri-county area.

“These grants will empower our communities to transform idle, languishing lands into vibrant hubs for business, jobs, and recreation,” BH Executive Director Michael Paprocki said. “It’s all about providing that initial funding, and sparking that first conversation to set stalled sites on a path toward smart, safe redevelopment that directly benefits our communities.”

Pat Ford, executive director of the Business Development Corporation of the Northern Panhandle, said the funding is “critically important ” in removing barriers to redevelopment and job growth in a region that is “already strong on economic development fundamentals, such as creating real estate inventory served by a robust transportation network and trained labor force.”

“Our tri-county region is proud to have received the largest coalition grant two years in a row, and this effort demonstrates the strength governments and private entities can have when they work together toward a common goal—to create jobs,” Ford added.

The coalition partners of the BDC, Jefferson County Port Authority and BH have identified at least six vacant, abandoned, or underused sites in the six communities. The EPA grant will help fund an environmental assessment of these sites, focusing on contamination stemming from petroleum and other hazardous materials. The funding is distributed through the EPA Brownfields Program, which cleans up and reinvests in sites that are contaminated — or perceived to be so — and have limited redevelopment potential because of potential liability.

“This grant would not have been possible without the active involvement of our coalition partners,” JCPA Executive Director Evan Scurti said. “We’ve seen brownfield projects kick start impressive economic redevelopment and revitalization by leveraging brownfields funding to clean-up and reuse contaminated properties.”