More than half a dozen Indiana communities will soon take the first steps in cleaning up contaminated parcels of unused land blighting their regions.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency selected seven brownfield site applications from around Indiana for more than $2.7 million in grants.
Brownfield sites are portions of land or real estate that are abandoned, inactive or may not be used for certain functions due to the potential presence of hazardous substances or contamination.
Currently, Indiana has thousands of brownfield sites across the state that are restricted from certain uses due to contamination.
“The state’s partnership with U.S. EPA and helping communities address blighted properties results in improving both the physical environment and the environment for economic development and job growth, which are equally important,” said Indiana Department of Environmental Management commissioner Bruno Pigott.
The grant money will be used to conduct environmental assessments of the sites and produce cleanup plans to eventually revitalize the sites.
Kurt Thiede, administrator for EPA Region 5, which oversees Indiana and five other Midwestern states, said brownfield grants have been shown to increase local tax revenues and residential property values.
“The Midwest is known for its culture, heritage, innovation, industrial contributions, but like other areas in the country, many of our communities have experienced economic hardship and some population decline. And as the businesses and jobs moved out, they left behind old buildings and, unfortunately, sometimes contamination as well,” said Thiede. “Grants awarded by EPA’s brownfield program provide communities across the country with an opportunity to transform these contaminated sites and the community assets that attract jobs and achieve broader economic development.”
The awards will be distributed to the city governments and economic coalitions that applied for the grants.
LOGANSPORT REGION - $600,000
The EPA awarded the Logansport region a $600,000 grant to perform between 12 and 24 site assessments for areas including the city’s Eerie Avenue and Water Street Corridors and the Grissom Aeroplex Heat Plant in Bunker Hill. The EPA said the grant would cover the development of seven to 14 cleanup plans for priority sites including the former Transco and Exide battery sites in Logansport and the Nickel Plate North site in Rochester.
“The future of Logansport is dependent on cleaning up the brownfield sites throughout our community, obviously for economic development purposes,” said Logansport Mayor Chris Martin. “We’ll also explore parts of our downtown with the potential of environmental risks, as well. We also want to make sure that our community is safe for our residents, and this grant will help us.”
WASHINGTON, VINCENNES AND BEDFORD - $504,000
The EPA selected the Southern Indiana Development Commission, which represents Daviess, Greene, Knox, Lawrence and Martin Counties, for a $504,000 brownfields grant. The money will be used to inventory and prioritize sites for 25 assessments and six future cleanup plans. Priority sites include a 10-acre site in Washington that was formerly used for gas pump and refrigerant manufacturing, a former industrial solvents warehouse in Vincennes and a 4-acre site in Bedford with eight 8,000-gallon tanks believed to contain fuel and solvents.
NEW CASTLE, SPICELAND, MIDDLETOWN- $400,000
Henry County was awarded a $400,000 grant to conduct 21 environmental site assessments and six cleanup plans. The assessments will focus on two former manufacturing sites in New Castle, three former auto repair and industrial sites in Spiceland and a former auto repair shop in Middletown.
Henry County was previously awarded $500,000 in brownfield grants in 2015
CRAWFORDSVILLE - $300,000
The City of Crawfordsville was awarded a $300,000 brownfields grant to conduct up to 11 environmental site assessments and 10 cleanup plans in the city’s downtown north edge and a neighborhood in the southeast side. The city’s mayor said the assessments will focus on a former power plant, former coal storage, former industrial site and two former gas stations.
“We’ve made great strides in moving our community forward in redeveloping areas that have suffered and become blighted. However, we are still faced with areas that are especially challenging because they contain brownfield sites that create uncertainty,” said Crawfordsville Mayor Todd Barton. “We often find that once we are able to assess these sites and obtain accurate information, the uncertainty is mitigated and we are able to create viable plans for remediation, and, ultimately, return these areas to productive use while reducing public threats to health and safety.”
GREENFIELD - $300,000
The EPA selected the City of Greenfield for a $300,000 grant to conduct up to 11 environmental site assessments and up to 10 cleanup plans. The grant will target a junkyard, grain elevator, power substation, a former gas station, former rail depot and a former towing yard in the Pennsy Trail Corridor.
“Because it was next to the railroad there are quite a few old manufacturing plants, and things that are no longer in service. The land is idle and not really very healthy,” said Greenfield planning director Joan Fitzwater. “It’s really important to our goals to provide a healthy environment as well as better economic opportunities.”
CHARLESTOWN, CORYDON AND NEW ALBANY - $300,000
The EPA selected the River Hills Economic Development District and Regional Planning Commission for a $300,000 brownfields grant to conduct 15 environmental site assessments and develop four cleanup plans. The grant will focus on a former auto sales and repair property in Corydon’s Little Indiana Creek Corridor; a group of abandoned buildings formerly used for munitions storage near the Charlestown Park in Charlestown; and a former tannery in New Albany.
The district received $550,000 in brownfield grants in 2016. RHEDC community development specialist Nick Creevy said the area was able to turn the grant into millions of dollars in investments.
TERRE HAUTE - $300,000
The City of Terre Haute was chosen for a $300,000 brownfield grant to conduct 22 environmental site assessments. City officials plan to target the former Indiana Coke and Gas Co. site, several former industrial properties within the Wabash River floodplain and the former International Paper Site.