Brownfields

Eight Years Later: EPA Assists Iowa City’s Sustainable Recovery After Historic 2008 Flood

By David Doyle

In June 2008, parts of eastern Iowa were devastated by a 500-year flood, the second such event in 15 years. Total losses from the flooding were estimated at nearly $3.5 billion.

Flooding in eastern Iowa, June 2008

The disaster’s greatest impact was on Cedar Rapids, where more than 5,200 homes and almost 1,000 businesses were damaged or destroyed. However, the flood also affected dozens of other communities along the Des Moines, Cedar, Iowa, and Mississippi rivers and their many tributaries.

My Role in Tornado Recovery

The previous year, I had been assigned to work with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA’s) long-term community recovery efforts in response to the EF-5 tornado that devastated Greensburg, Kan. This was my first opportunity to participate in a long-term recovery effort in response to a natural disaster.

Aftermath of Iowa flooding, June 2008

EPA’s traditional role after disasters primarily had been responding to the threat and impacts from the release of hazardous materials, along with addressing the impacts on community water and wastewater systems. Long-term recovery was a relatively new role for EPA and involved providing assistance with sustainable community planning to make a community more sustainable and resilient to future disasters.

My role in Greensburg was to help FEMA develop the long-term community recovery plan which was completed after several months of work and quickly implemented, eventually making Greensburg arguably the greenest city in the country.

In 2008, I was again assigned to work with FEMA in Iowa on post-disaster, sustainable long-term planning efforts. I quickly realized that making such plans after a flood was very different than for a tornado.

A Very Different Experience

While Greensburg was a one-square-mile city, much of Iowa was impacted in one way or another by this flood. Fortunately, then Governor Chet Culver established a state government agency called the Rebuild Iowa Office, which spent considerable time immediately after the disaster working with FEMA to determine the long-term recovery needs of communities.

Flooding in eastern Iowa, June 2008

Meanwhile, learning from my experience in Greensburg, I started to reach out to various EPA headquarters offices looking for assistance, knowing there was no funding available from EPA Region 7 to assist with the needed recovery planning.

I quickly found that EPA’s offices of Sustainable Communities and Brownfields & Land Revitalization were willing partners. Both provided funding to bring in technical experts on economic development, transportation planning, and sustainable urban design.

Iowa City Makes the Most of EPA’s Assistance

The Iowa community that took most advantage of these resources was Iowa City, the state’s fourth largest city and home to the University of Iowa and a major medical center. For years, the city had been looking to redevelop an area south of their downtown. The 2008 flood gave them an opportunity to do just that.

This 30-square-block area, renamed the Riverfront Crossings District, includes an aging wastewater treatment plant, recycling center, animal shelter, and various other underutilized properties, many of which were impacted by the flooding.

Diagram from EPA’s “Enhancing Sustainable Communities with Green Infrastructure”

After conducting a retail and housing market analysis, along with a transit-oriented development study, both commissioned by EPA, it was decided that this area could be transformed into a mixed-use, pedestrian- and transit-friendly neighborhood. Again, utilizing EPA funding, contractors with expertise in sustainable urban planning initiated a process to develop conceptual plans for such a neighborhood. After considerable interaction with local stakeholders, EPA finalized these plans in May 2011.

Since EPA’s Involvement

As it takes years – not only for plans to be finalized from conception, but also for them to be implemented – I recently asked Karen Howard, Iowa City’s assistant planning director, to update me on what has happened in the community since EPA’s involvement.

She said a Riverfront Crossings District Master Plan was adopted in 2013, along with a form-based zoning code for the district in 2014 (one of the recommendations from the initial EPA technical assistance grant).

Illustration of Riverfront Crossings District restoration after removal of wastewater plant

Since the form-based code was adopted, private investment in new construction totaled about $160 million, with many projects still under construction, and another $100 to $150 million in private investment is in the planning stages. This is only a small fraction of the redevelopment potential of the Riverfront Crossings District that Howard expects in the coming years.

New private building projects include two new hotels, a 6-story Class A office building, stand-alone restaurant, convenience store/gas station, craft brewery, multi-family and mixed-use buildings with ground floor retail space, and a considerable number of residential apartments and condominiums.

Public investment in the district includes the decommissioned and demolished, flood-prone wastewater treatment plant; the first phase of a new riverfront park, a 600-space public parking facility (under construction), new ambulance and medical examiners’ offices (under construction), and a new University of Iowa School of Music (completed in fall 2016). A number of street improvement projects are also in the planning stages.

The old saying, “With disaster brings opportunity,” certainly couldn’t be more applicable to the sustainable recovery efforts that rejuvenated Iowa City after the flood of 2008.

About the Author: David Doyle serves as the Sustainable Communities Coordinator at EPA Region 7. David has a Bachelor of Science in environmental engineering from Syracuse University, and a Master of Science in environmental health engineering from the University of Kansas.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed herein are those of the author alone. EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog, nor does EPA endorse the opinions or positions expressed. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content. If you do make changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

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Planning Catalyst Cleanups to Spur Broad Community Revitalization

By: Mathy Stanislaus

At EPA, we recognize that successful, sustained community revitalization occurs when neighborhood stakeholders, local governments and the private sector work together on a shared plan for community-wide improvement. That is why we created the Area-Wide Planning (AWP) grants program for brownfield sites; a legacy I’m particularly proud of.

The Brownfields AWP grant program is an innovation initiated by the Obama Administration to empower communities to transform economically and environmentally distressed areas, including communities impacted by manufacturing plant closures, into vibrant future destinations for business, jobs, housing and recreation. These grants allow communities to develop revitalization plans that best meet their vision and needs, and execute them in a manner that benefits the community and does not displace long-term residents. In developing this national grants program, we learned from our state counterparts. Our AWP program was inspired by New York State’s Brownfields Opportunity Area (BOA) Program.

For 2017, EPA is investing approximately $3.8 million in 19 communities from across the nation to assist with planning for cleanup and reuse of brownfield sites. Each recipient will receive up to $200,000 to engage their community, conduct research activities and complete a plan for cleaning up and reusing their key brownfield sites.

photo of a grafittied building behind an overgrown field

Several communities selected to receive funding for 2017 have been affected by manufacturing plant closures. They are looking to make environmentally sound cleanup decisions on these properties and reopen them for business, sparking additional redevelopment in surrounding areas. Some of the notable projects involve improving community housing, transportation options, recreation and open space, education and health facilities and renewed infrastructure, which will lead to increased commerce and employment opportunities.

For example, these planning projects include the area around a former electronics manufacturing plant in Indianapolis, Indiana and a closed paper mill in Bucksport, Maine. One area selected in Wayne County, Michigan is anticipating a coal-fired power plant closure and is aiming to get ahead of the economic disruption that it will cause to its community. Others have recently felt the effects of climate change related natural disasters such as flooding in Norfolk, Virginia and Burlington, Iowa.  Communities in Indianapolis and Maine have been working to recover from both natural disasters and plant closures.

The AWP program helps coordinate federal investments, like infrastructure and economic development, that help environmentally overburdened, underserved, and economically distressed communities. Aligning federal resources allows agencies to better meet communities’ needs and lets communities reap the benefits of collaborative investments for area-wide revitalization. This coordination allocates resources based on community-directed plans rather than historic practices of individual infrastructure funding criteria, which can result in urban sprawl.

For example, the U.S. Department of Transportation has committed to prioritizing communities who use the outcomes of the AWP process to inform further transportation projects in their Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant selection process. Carlisle, Pennsylvania is one example of this collaboration. In addition to the Area-Wide Planning grant the Carlisle Borough received in 2013, they received a $5 million TIGER grant in 2016 to help them advance the brownfields revitalization efforts laid out in their area-wide plan. Since 2013, Carlisle has also leveraged more than $10 million through state, local and private funding.

This is the fourth round of grants awarded under our Brownfields AWP program. So far, EPA has awarded a total of over $11 million to 64 grantees. To date, AWP grantees have leveraged over $385 million in additional public and private funding, as well as other EPA resources, to help address key brownfield sites within their communities.

Cleaning up brownfields sites results in significant benefits for communities. Studies have shown that residential property values near cleaned up sites increased between 5 and 15 percent. Data also shows that brownfields clean ups can increase overall property values within a one-mile radius. Preliminary analysis involving 48 brownfields sites shows that an estimated $29 million to $97 million in additional tax revenue was generated for local governments in a single year after cleanup.

I’m proud of the success we’ve seen across the country and hope to see the continuation of communities utilizing the AWP grant funding to work together with neighborhood stakeholders, local government and the private sector, for a shared vision for community-wide revitalization.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Developing Green Job Opportunities in Brownfields-Impacted Communities

The first seeds of brownfields job training—and of the brownfields program itself—emerged in the early 1990s, reflecting our growing concern for environmental equity (now known as environmental justice). Back then, we provided funds for the assessment and cleanup of abandoned and potentially contaminated sites through brownfields grants. The funds brought job opportunities to those communities where the assessments and cleanups were taking place, but there was one problem. The jobs were going to environmental professionals from other cities because, more times than not, local residents lacked the environmental training these jobs demanded.

So in 1998, based on the urging of local community and environmental justice leaders, we launched the brownfields job training program. We wanted to help ensure that individuals from communities who had dealt with the high unemployment, poverty, historic disinvestment and health disparities that came along with brownfields, could be qualified to take advantage of the job opportunities created when cleaning up these sites. The program simultaneously served as a ladder of opportunity for residents from some of the most economically distressed communities in America for jobs, and one of the first green jobs programs. That first year, we awarded eleven brownfields job training pilots, and by 1999 the program produced its first 100 graduates.

Since 1998, the program has evolved and is now referred to as the Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training (EWDJT) program. The program provides funding to grantees so they can recruit, train, and place unemployed and severely under-employed individuals from these impacted communities in long-term environmental careers. These individuals are single mothers, low-income individuals, minorities, dislocated workers, tribal residents, ex-offenders, veterans, and other individuals with extreme barriers to employment. At this point, more than 14,700 individuals from communities historically affected by environmental pollution have been trained and more than 10,600 have been placed in environmental jobs throughout the country.

The EWDJT program is intended to not only help revitalize the land, but also transform the lives of those living on it. It is with great pleasure that we announce today the selection of 18 new entities that are aiming to do just that. We are awarding approximately $3.5 million in new EWDJT grants. We see this investment as a great way to more directly involve affected communities in their own revitalization.

View this year’s EWDJT selections

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

The Foundation Has Been Laid: Helping the Community That Made Me Who I Am

By Stanley Walker

Stan WalkerIn 1969, I first walked up the steps to Horace Mann Elementary School in Kansas City, Mo. The steps were strong, sturdy, and built on a foundation of community, love, and support. I was so excited to be able to go to school like the other kids in the neighborhood, more importantly being able to walk with my older brother and sister. It was a great feeling. At five years old, I felt like I was finally growing up by being able to walk up those steps and enter the school as a real Horace Mann student.

For the next eight years, I would be in a learning environment filled with knowledge, wisdom, and street smarts. Day in and day out, I would be in the presence of the best teachers, smartest students, and of course, some of the greatest athletes in the area.Horace Mann Elementary School in Kansas City, Mo.

On Sept. 23, 2015, I had the opportunity to walk up the steps of hope again. However, it was under different circumstances. The Environmental Protection Agency was awarding Kansas City, Mo., a grant to help communities such as the Ivanhoe Neighborhood revitalize that area.

Although the school has been torn down, the bricks have been saved and are being reused on the site. Saving the bricks serves as another symbol for me. The bricks have endured strong winds, blisteringly hot summers, and bitterly cold winters. Like the bricks, many folks in the community have endured the various seasons of life. You can sometimes see the chips and scars left by the seasons on the faces of the community. However, the strength for the community to get up one more time from the poverty, urban flight, crime, and neglect reminds me how Evander Holyfield stormed back after taking a vicious punch from Riddick Bowe. I watch the community get back on its feet before the count of 10 with the addition of the Aldi’s store on 39th and Prospect, and the duplexes being built to replace the school.

While at the celebration, someone Stan Walker poses for photofound a piece of an old chalkboard. It evoked memories of being able to go up to the board and work a problem in front of my class, which was a real honor. For almost 50 years, there were a couple of pillars like Mrs. Margaret May who kept the foundation strong and pieced it back together when it began to crumble. As I stood next to her on that September day, I could not thank her enough for preserving the foundation of a strong community. Much of who I was, who I am, and who I will become will still come back to the foundation built by Horace Mann Elementary School.

About the Author: Stanley Walker manages the Superfund Technical Assistance and Reuse Branch at EPA Region 7. 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed herein are those of the author alone. EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog, nor does EPA endorse the opinions or positions expressed. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content. If you do make changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Will Aquaponic Gardening Help Solve Food Insecurity in the Future?

Emily Nusz-thumbnailBy Emily Nusz

EPA brings in students every summer to work, learn practical environmental skills, and enhance their educational experience through our Pathways Intern Program. The Big Blue Thread has been proud to feature several blogs written by these interns, focusing on what motivates them to work in the environmental sector and what attracted them to EPA. We’ve posted blogs by Andrew Speckin, Sara Lamprise and Kelly Overstreet. Our final blog in this series is the second one by Emily Nusz, who continues to intern with our Environmental Data and Assessment staff.

Water is an essential component of life. Without it, we cannot survive. In my previous blog, I discussed my experience building a well for clean drinking water in Africa. Many developing countries are challenged by the lack of access to clean water. In some cases, people have to walk miles each day just to reach a source, which is why my church’s mission team and I wanted to provide a water well to a village in Nairobi, Kenya.

Water is not the only essential component of life to which some communities across the globe lack access. Finding abundant food sources also may be a problem. I have thought over and over again about how we can solve food insecurity, while also being eco-friendly. During my undergraduate career, I researched and built a system that may have the potential for doing just that. In fact, my former agriculture professor travels to Haiti about once a month to teach this simple gardening technique, which can be used to provide communities with a self-sustaining food supply. This system is unique because it can work anywhere, anytime, through any season.

It’s called aquaponics, a budding technique that allows you to grow your own local, healthy food right in your backyard while using 90 percent less water  than traditional gardening. If you are wondering what aquaponics is, you are not alone. The term “aquaponics” is not part of everyday conversation, but soon it may be. I was not introduced to the idea until about a year ago when I began to build a system of my own for academic research.

How It Works

Aquaponics

Aquaponic gardening integrates fish and plant growth in a mutual recirculating cycle by combining hydroponics and aquaculture. It is an environmentally friendly way to produce food without harsh chemical fertilizers through a symbiotic relationship. To give you an idea, the fish are able to produce waste that eventually turns into nitrates, which provides essential nutrients for plant growth in a hydroponic environment without any soil. The plants, which are planted in gravel beds, take in the nutrients provided by the fish and help purify the water for the care of the fish. The purified water then flows back to the fish for reuse. Many cultures are able to use this system to not only grow crops, but have a food source of fish as well.

Many types of plants can be grown in the system, such as lettuce, peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Tilapia are the most commonly used fish because they provide extra benefits other fish cannot, such as high levels of ammonia, which is important for maintaining effective system levels.

My Experiment

When I began to build an indoor aquaponic system, my goal was to research if plants and fish could sustain life in an environment lacking nutrients provided by sunlight. The system contained three separate tanks.

Tank 1 was set up as the “breeder tank.” This tank circulated the Aquaponic Research Setup - Emily Nusznutrients from the fish into the tank containing the plants. Many aquaponic systems do not include a breeder tank, but for my research it was included.

Tank 2 was set up as the “fish tank.” This tank contained all of the fish (about 50 tilapia). Tank 3 was set up as the “plant tank.” All of the plants were planted in the gravel of this tank to absorb the nutrients provided by the fish. The purified water then flowed from this tank back into tank 2 for reuse.

The water quality of the continuous cycle was observed and recorded over a 10-week period to determine the production of plant growth and water quality in an indoor aquaponic system. Measurements of water quality were collected, including pH, electroconductivity, total dissolved solids, potassium levels, nitrate levels, dissolved oxygen, and temperature.

Although my research did not support sufficient growth of plants in an indoor aquaponic system, it has been found to work indoors using ultraviolet light as a source. Year-round results can also occur by having the system set up in a greenhouse. As long as the system is set up in a controlled environment that mimics nature, fish and plant production will flourish.

The Future

The awareness and potential for aquaponics is beginning to soar. Aquaponics may not be part of everyday conversation yet, but it could make a tremendous change in how we grow our food in the future.

In fact, today EPA tries to incorporate this type of gardening technique to redevelop contaminated Brownfield sites. They work with communities on many of the redevelopment projects to set up urban agriculture practices for food production. There are many benefits to constructing Brownfield sites into agricultural growth areas, especially using the aquaponic system. Urban agriculture has two major benefits for contaminated sites: it binds the contaminants, and it contributes to the growth of local food.

Emily Nusz-thumbnailAbout the Author: Emily Nusz is a Student Intern at EPA Region 7, who worked full-time this summer and continues to work part-time during the school year. She is a graduate student at the University of Kansas, studying environmental assessment. Emily is SCUBA certified, and one of her life goals is to scuba dive the Great Barrier Reefs off the coast of Australia.

Sources:

Emily’s First Blog Entry: https://blog.epa.gov/blog/2015/10/providing-clean-water-to-an-african-village-not-a-simple-turn-of-the-tap/

Brownfields: http://www.epa.gov/brownfields

Land Revitalization/Urban Agriculture Fact Sheet: http://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-08/documents/fs_urban_agriculture.pdf

USDA Aquaponics Information: https://afsic.nal.usda.gov/aquaculture-and-soilless-farming/aquaponics

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed herein are those of the author alone. EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog, nor does EPA endorse the opinions or positions expressed. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content. If you do make changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

EPA’s Grant Program – A Key Contributor for Environmental Results

By Karl Brooks

Here at EPA, we partner with other governments – state, tribal, and local – to share responsibility for protecting human health and our nation’s natural environment. In order to do so, our Office of Grants and Debarment annually transfers grants worth more than $4 billion to other governments, educational institutions and non-profit organizations.

We are proud of our role supporting the efforts taken in 2009 to deal with an unprecedented national economic crisis. When Congress enacted the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) in 2009, they more than doubled our annual grant award budget to $9.8 billion. Our ARRA grants helped communities throughout America direct billions of dollars into shovel-ready projects for environmental infrastructure and cleanup — efforts that enhanced the quality of life in communities and better protected public health.

We met this historic responsibility by obligating 50% more funds than had been usual — $6.5 billion in grants – in barely two-thirds of a normal cycle. To meet Congress’ stewardship expectations and to prevent waste, fraud and abuse, we also instituted a monitoring program that far exceeded our standard process for non-ARRA awards.

After several years of managing ARRA funds, we faced other federal budget constraints triggering sequestration and furloughs in 2011-13. But now that our economy and grant program have entered a period of more normal operations, we are moving forward with a number of initiatives to further enhance our grants management system. In February 2015, we moved to Grants.gov for the submission of initial grant applications and deployed the first phase of our Next Generation Grants System, saving taxpayers $27 million by leveraging existing systems instead of developing new ones.

Working effectively in partnership with states, tribes, and other grantees, we have distributed, overseen, and accounted for more than $36 billion that went to governmental partners, educational institutions and non-profit organizations between fiscal year 2008 and fiscal year 2014.

In administering this funding, we manage, on an annual basis, over 6,000 active grants involving more than 2,300 separate grantees and approximately 100 different programs. These programs sustain our environmental protection enterprise at all governmental levels, encourage vital scientific research and help communities shape environmental policy. We work with Congress, GAO, and our Office of Inspector General to ensure funds are properly managed. We welcome their scrutiny and continue to work diligently to make our grant program efficient and responsive to the American public.

To learn more about how our grant making is making a difference visit:

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Tools Promoting Reuse-Evaluating Clean Energy for Contaminated Properties

By Mathy Stanislaus

Last month while attending the Brownfields conference in Chicago, I spoke with numerous mayors, community members, developers, financiers, and many others working to revitalize their communities. One common theme I heard was the need for tools and resources that could be deployed at the community or site level to help facilitate the cleanup or reuse of degraded or blighted properties. Toward that end I am pleased to announce the release of our RE-Powering America’s Land electronic decision tree tool. It will let communities and stakeholders examine the key considerations associated with solar or wind development on a formerly contaminated property or a landfill.

You may not have thought about siting renewable energy on a landfill or formerly contaminated property but it presents a unique opportunity to transform dormant and degraded properties into productive community assets. To date, more than 150 renewable energy installations have been installed on contaminated lands, landfills and mine sites across the U.S., providing clean energy to power cleanups, on-site operations and community electricity needs. The Agency’s RE-Powering Initiative has supported and continues to advance this trend. Because of these projects, communities across the country have saved millions of dollars in energy costs, created construction jobs, and received new property tax revenue as a result of reusing these sites for renewable energy.

The electronic decision tree is a downloadable computer application that walks users through a series of questions supplemented by tips and links to relevant tools and information sources. The user is guided through various considerations associated with the site, redevelopment process, and criteria specific to landfills and contaminated properties. In addition, it helps users explore how the regulatory context, financial incentives and future electricity usage affect projects. You would think that the amount of sun and the site conditions would mainly determine feasibility; however, these other factors tend to dominate.

This new tool helps communities and other stakeholders explore their sites, engage developers and drive their vision of productive reuse. The tools inform and empower communities to plan and align their desires for economic development within a sustainable land management strategy.

RE-Powering encourages renewable energy on contaminated lands in a variety of ways by:

  • Identifying and screening contaminated properties
  • Disseminating success stories and best practices
  • Clarifying liability
  • Articulating associated environmental, economic and community benefits
  • Disseminating financing strategies and information on incentives
  • Highlighting favorable policies; and
  • Developing partnerships and pursuing outreach

Most of all, RE-Powering brings two important ideas together: the interest in cleaning up contaminated land and in siting renewable energy. And, all this in the context of what’s appropriate for the site and what is desired by the community.

Check out the new RE-Powering website and all its resources, its updated mapper and, of course, the new electronic decision tree tool.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Brownfields Revolving Loan Funds – Transforming Communities across America

By Mathy Stanislaus

Here at EPA, we’re proud of our brownfields program, which addresses contaminated sites with a community-driven and innovative approach. We provide grants and other technical assistance to communities to plan for, assess and clean up brownfield sites. There is no better example of the flexibility a brownfield grant affords a community than the Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) program, which provides capital to make low- or no-interest loans and sub-grants to finance brownfields cleanup.

When these loans are repaid, the loan amount is then returned to the fund and re-loaned to other borrowers, providing an ongoing sustainable source of capital within a community for additional brownfields cleanups. The RLF program is important in brownfields cleanup and redevelopment and a central component of the brownfields program. Since the Brownfields Law was passed, we have awarded 330 RLF grants totaling more than $319 million. RLF grants account for over one-third of the total sites cleaned up under the brownfields program and are responsible for leveraging over 24,000 jobs and over $5 billion in other cleanup and redevelopment funding.

A great feature of the RLF is our ability to recognize and reward successful grantees by re-capitalizing their grants through supplemental funding as loan funds are depleted. We recently announced the re-capitalization of 31 of our highest performing RLF grantees with $13.2 million in new funds, allowing them to continue to issue loans and sub-grants to cleanup brownfields sites.

Many of these sites start as a high priority or target area for redevelopment. After going through the assessment and planning process, sites must secure cleanup funding. When used effectively, the RLF can clean up sites that would otherwise not be revitalized. Since traditional lenders can be reluctant to finance the cleanup component of a redevelopment project, the RLF can provide the critical gap financing needed to jump-start the redevelopment process. After that, the site is positioned to attract additional leveraged funding for redevelopment.

RLFs are key tool for states and regional planning commissions to target small and rural communities who don’t have the capacity to manage a brownfields grant or have the needed cleanup funding. In this way, the RLFs expand our reach into rural communities that may otherwise not receive our funding. In fact, in this recent round, 30 percent of the planned projects are in rural communities with populations under 20,000.

RLFs can also be great for urban areas, as demonstrated by the program established in Kansas City, MO. Kansas City has a rich history of revitalizing their brownfield sites – they’ve received funding from us, HUD, and the Missouri Housing Development Corporation. In this instance, the Ivanhoe Neighborhood Council (INC), a nonprofit community development organization, led the effort to clean up the former Horace Mann School, a site in a historically disadvantaged neighborhood with prominent blight and health risks of asbestos, lead paint and mold. Through the use of $671,862 of brownfield assessment and RLF funds, Kansas City was able to assess and cleanup the site.

The site is now being redeveloped into various affordable housing options and a community building with a fitness center, library, pharmacy and community garden.  The complete redevelopment project, named Ivanhoe Gateway at 39th Street, will cost approximately $100 million dollars. The use of the RLF funds have enabled the nearly $5 million first phase of the redevelopment project to go forward.

It’s rewarding to see how communities are leveraging the RLF funds to transform their downtowns and bring positive change to their inhabitants. We look forward to seeing what our next round of RLF recipients will accomplish.

For more information

 

Former Horace Mann School, 2008 E. 39th St.

Former Horace Mann School, 2008 E. 39th St.

Ivanhoe Gateway at 39th Street Vision

Ivanhoe Gateway at 39th Street Vision

Phase I Construction – June 2015

Phase I Construction – June 2015

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

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Strengthening Local Economies and the Environment Go Hand in Hand

Last week in Chicago, I participated in a series of events as part of the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership (IMCP). The IMCP works with counties and private and non-profit organizations to advance manufacturing in the U.S. by aligning a range of federal government programs with community goals. EPA has been a strong partner with the Department of Commerce and the White House, encouraging the integration of sustainability, smart growth, and industrial legacy site reuse as part of community manufacturing investment strategies.  The Chicago metro area was one of the first IMCP communities, and they’ve focused on expanding the metal fabricating sector.

The Chicago Metro region epitomizes what the IMCP can do through a coordinated redevelopment approach.   During my visit, I went to Sterling Lumber, which straddles Harvey and Phoenix, two small, economically challenged older inner ring suburbs.  To accommodate his rapidly growing and diversifying wood products business, CEO Carter Sterling relocated and consolidated his business on a brownfields site.  The site already had a large existing manufacturing building space that could be adapted for Sterling and transportation access.  Starting with an EPA assessment grant to the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association (long active in Cook County brownfields efforts) to characterize and quantify the cleanup costs, Mr. Sterling  built partnerships and leveraged considerable support from state agencies and Cook County.  Improvements included upgrading road access and adding a rail spur to the site. He also partnered with OAI (a local workforce training organization and recipient of our Environmental Workforce and Job Training grants) and the Calumet Green Manufacturing Partnership, to hire about a third of Sterling’s new workforce – about 20 individuals – from the community.

Assistant Administrator Mathy Stanislaus and Mike O’Connell, CEO of Sterling Lumber Company

Assistant Administrator Mathy Stanislaus and Mike O’Connell, CEO of Sterling Lumber Company

Next, we visited LB Steel, a leading steel manufacturer that employs around 300 workers.  I toured its 450,000 square foot facility and observed numerous metals products being manufactured for customers around the world. LB Steel is a great illustration of the existing strength in metals manufacturing that is the foundation for expanding metals manufacturing in the Chicago Metro area.

Assistant Administrator Mathy Stanislaus and David Abshire, Vice President of LB Steel tour the LB steel products factory.

Assistant Administrator Mathy Stanislaus and David Abshire, Vice President of LB Steel tour the LB steel products factory.

Before leaving, I addressed the semi-annual meeting of the Chicago Regional Growth Initiative, a bi-partisan collaboration of the elected leadership of all of the counties of the Chicago Metro area (Cook, Will, DuPage, Kendall, McHenry, Lake, and Kane Counties), established to support the IMCP designation under the leadership of Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle.

I noted that I represented the U.S at the G7 earlier this year to advance a circular economy strategy to maximize the recovery of used materials through life cycle-based sustainable materials management. The U.S. has seen a 57 percent increase in new materials acquired (e.g., mining, lumbering); 42 percent of greenhouse gases stem from materials management in the U.S. economy.  Similar statistics were shared by other G7 countries. This led to the adoption of a sustainable materials management/resources efficiency platform built on production and environmental considerations. The G7 declaration noted that global raw material use rose during the 20th century at about twice the rate of population growth. Furthermore, much of the raw material input in industrial economies is returned to the environment as waste within one year.

I recognized that the collaboration of these counties around a common manufacturing agenda is the vision of the IMCP.  I shared the role of EPA in advancing manufacturing, and why EPA is so involved in attracting new manufacturing activity, and attracting new foreign direct investment aimed at industrial production.  What better place to encourage new manufacturing investment than at old brownfields and other previously used sites?  Their location near community centers, transportation and established universities and R&D centers as well as their past industrial uses make many of these sites uniquely situated to attract new manufacturing activities.  I concluded my comments by noting that the Chicago IMPC model is a strong example of how manufacturing can advance economic, environmental and social outcomes.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

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Field Trip to Camden, NJ

By Carsen Mata

Tour visits the Puchack Well Field site.

Tour visits the Puchack Well Field site.

My walk to the office on Monday morning was quite different compared to most days. My stride longer, my pace faster, today I was going on a field trip! This wasn’t just any old field trip by the way, this was a two-hour trek from New York City down to Camden, New Jersey. The field trip crew that I accompanied consisted of a few seasoned EPA Region 2 staff members, our Regional Administrator Judith Enck, and Congressman Norcross of District One. The day’s itinerary had us hopping from one event to the next, guaranteeing an eventful day. First up – the Puchack Well Field site in Pennsauken, NJ. Upon arrival we were greeted by John Gorin, the remedial project manager for the site. John is the go-to guy for all things Puchack, especially when it comes to the ins and outs of the cleanup process.

The coolest part of the morning was seeing the site in full operation mode. This was surely the perfect time for a visit. Cranes and sifters were at work, soil from one area was being transported to another, and misters above the site gates were spraying the perimeter of the work zone. When everyone arrived John ran us through a brief overview of the work being done and the potential action items to come. After a short announcement and photo-op for the press we headed over to the next event at the Ray and Joan Kroc Salvation Army Center in Camden.

EPA’s John Gorin explains the cleanup plans.

EPA’s John Gorin explains the cleanup plans.

It was here that we met the Director of Economic Development for Camden, Jim Harveson, who excitedly joined Judith and Congressman Norcross in announcing that the Camden Brownfields program was receiving nearly $1 million in EPA grants. This package of grants will go towards the cleanup efforts at sites in Camden like the Harrison Avenue landfill and the former warehouse, experimental lab, and toy assembly plant at East State Street.

The press event was held outdoors with the recently constructed ball fields and playground of the Salvation Army Center serving as a beautiful backdrop. All of the event’s speakers were wonderful but Congressman Norcross, a Camden native, stepped up to the podium to address the media with a sentimental message. He reminisced about what this space once looked like and what the development of sites like these meant to the people that live there. It is clear that these grants represent much more than funding for various development projects. They symbolize the perseverance of a community that has been burdened by decades of industrial pollution. After many trying years, this area and its residents are on their way to environmental and economic success, something every community deserves.

Jim Harveson concluded the event by inviting everyone that attended back in two years. By then, he hopes the site will feature a waterfront park as well as a field of solar panels to power the center. For now, they’re taking it one site at a time, making every grant dollar count.

To finish off our day we visited a portion of the Welsbach & General Gas Mantle Superfund site in Gloucester City, just fifteen minutes south of Camden. Although a great deal of the cleanup work has already been completed, this particular area has soil and building surfaces that are still contaminated by radioactive waste. It is also situated on one of the busiest port facilities in the region, making it uniquely complex for all parties involved in the cleanup. We were joined by Rick Robinson, the remedial project manager of the site and Leo Holt – president of Holt Logistics, the owner and operator of the port, for a short bus tour around the property.

Judith Enck addresses the crowd.

Judith Enck addresses the crowd.

As soon as we witnessed cleanup and port activity occurring simultaneously, we understood the complexities of the site on a deeper level. Humongous containers filled with fruits and vegetables from all over the world were being transported by even bigger pieces of construction machinery. On the other side of the property EPA cleanup activities were being completed. I suddenly wondered, “all this activity AND an EPA cleanup? At the same time?” I’ve never felt so small in my life! Seeing the port in action and learning about the cleanup from such experienced staff solidified the fact that the EPA will stop at nothing to protect human health and the environment!

I think it’s safe to say this might be one of the best field trips I’ve ever been on.

About the Author: Carsen Mata is an intern for the EPA Region 2 Public Affairs Division.  She currently resides in Jersey City, NJ and is a graduate of Fairfield University in Fairfield, CT.  She is entering her last semester of graduate school at Fairfield University and will be receiving her Master of Public Administration in December 2015.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed herein are those of the author alone. EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog, nor does EPA endorse the opinions or positions expressed. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content. If you do make changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

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