The Environmental Protection Agency has chosen nine Indiana applicants to receive a total of $4,055,625 in Brownfields Multipurpose, Assessment and Cleanup grants, which will be used to search for environmental contamination in Indiana communities.
The recipients are Lawrenceburg with $600,000, the Michiana Area Council of Governments with $600,000, Indianapolis with $600,000, the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission with $600,000, Fort Wayne with $455,625, Kokomo with $300,000, Lawrence with $300,000, Lebanon with $300,000 and Sullivan with $300,000.
The grants will be used to clean up brownfields – defunct industrial and commercial areas that often contain hazardous materials – so that they can be repurposed and redeveloped. The hope is that redeveloped sites, once decontaminated, can be transformed into areas that attract jobs and encourage economic development.
“Many communities are ready to move forward with redevelopment, they just lack the funding to get started,” said EPA Regional Administrator Cathy Stepp in a press release.
Of the 149 locations selected to receive Brownfields grants nationwide this year, 108 of them contain Opportunity Zones, low-income areas in need of long-term economic developmental investments.
“We are targeting these funds to areas that need them the most,” EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler said. “Approximately 40 percent of the selected recipients are receiving Brownfields grants for the first time, which means we are reaching areas that may have previously been neglected.”
In previous years, Brownfields grants have been shown to increase tax revenue and property values. Studies conducted by the EPA found that the values of homes near redeveloped sites increased by up to 15%. Another study of 48 of these revitalized areas found that, a year after cleanup, these locations generated an estimated $29 million to $97 million more in local tax revenue.
In the United States alone, an estimated 450,000 brownfields need cleanup. This year, 22 Indiana locations applied. Of the nine locations or organizations selected, only Indianapolis received a Multipurpose grant. Each of the others received a grant categorized as “Assessment.”
In the Indianapolis area, the cities of Indianapolis, Kokomo, Lawrence and Lebanon will use grant money to further existing environmental projects, many of them initially funded by past Brownfields grants.
This year’s grant marks the 13th for Indianapolis and will go toward the investigation and cleanup of the Black Mountain property, which contaminates the Englewood neighborhood the Indiana Environmental Reporter recently investigated energy inequality.
The city of Lawrenceburg plans to use the grants to evaluate the environmental state of the Lawrenceburg/Aurora Downtown Riverway District, which was once heavily populated by factories and petroleum storage facilities. This is the first year that Lawrenceburg has received a Brownfields grant.
In order to promote economic redevelopment, the city of Sullivan will use its Brownfields funds to investigate nearly 10 properties in the downtown area, including defunct gas stations and a dry cleaner. It also hopes to create new housing, offices and recreational areas.
The funds awarded to the Michiana Area Council of Governments will benefit towns throughout Elkhart, Marshall, Kosciusko and St. Joseph counties.
Fort Wayne has similar plans for its downtown area, and will also allocate grant money to the investigation of the St. Marys River. This will be Fort Wayne’s second Brownfields grant.
The Northwest Indiana Regional Planning Commission grant will benefit Gary, Hammond and East Chicago. This is the 12th Brownfields grant for this area and will be used to search for potential environmental contamination.
In addition to Multipurpose, Assessment and Cleanup grants, the EPA Brownfields Program offers planning grants, environmental workforce grants and teaching, training and research grants.
Last year, the EPA announced $2 million in funding to Indiana communities. These communities included Jeffersonville, Indianapolis, Richmond and the Michigan City Sanitary District.