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City wins $400,000 grant to identify contaminated sites

SALISBURY — Salisbury has won a $400,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to identify contaminated property in the city and determine how to clean it up.
The EPA has awarded $4 million in brownfields grants in North Carolina, including Salisbury’s grant — $200,000 to assess petroleum contamination and $200,000 to assess hazardous substances.
City Council will discuss next steps when members meet at 4 p.m. Tuesday in City Hall, 217 S. Main St.
A brownfield site is property that might have a hazardous substance or contaminant, which makes the expansion, redevelopment or reuse of the site unlikely or complicated. A good example is the old Kesler Mill site in the Park Avenue neighborhood, one of the suspected contaminated properties in Salisbury that city officials identified when applying for the federal grant.
Salisbury failed to win the grant in 2012 but beefed up a subsequent application last year. Numerous organizations wrote letters of support, including several that own or are connected to potentially contaminated properties, including Historic Salisbury Foundation, both Park Avenue neighborhood groups and Livingstone College.
The city has identified 16 sites that could have environmental contamination, including the Empire Hotel, a mostly vacant former hotel at 200 S. Main St. now owned by Downtown Salisbury Inc., and Duncan/Monroe Street School, a vacant former school at 1100 W. Monroe St. now owned by Livingstone College.
Brownfield sites are typically old industrial sites, former gas stations or abandoned dumping grounds for toxic materials. The goal of the brownfield program is to resolve environmental issues so properties are more appealing to developers, leading to new investment, jobs and a boost to the tax base.
“Not only are these funds protecting the environment and public health by helping communities clean up blighted toxic waste sites, there are new job growth opportunities for local economies to leverage through these investments,” Gina McCarthy, EPA administrator, said in a news release. “With cities looking at how to combat the impacts of climate change, it’s more important than ever for communities to innovate new ways to retrofit formerly polluted, unused sites for renewable energy use.”
Other potentially contaminated sites in Salisbury include former dry cleaners, former warehouses, former gas stations and car dealerships, a former greenhouse, asphalt and petroleum sites, former industrial sites and a suspected battery dump site.
The grant will pay to hire scientists and consultants to study particular properties and determine whether they are contaminated and what should be done to clean them up. The city paid nothing to vie for the grant, and the EPA provided a consultant to help prepare the complex application.
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, EPA provides financial assistance to eligible applicants through four competitive grant programs: assessment grants, revolving loan fund grants, cleanup grants and job training grants.
Additionally, funding support is provided to state and tribal response programs through a separate mechanism.
About $23.5 million is going to communities with plant closures. Other selected recipients include tribes and communities in 44 states across the country.
Since the inception of the EPA’s Brownfields program in 1995, cumulative 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 per EPA brownfield dollar expended. These investments have resulted in about 93,000 jobs nationwide.
The Brownfields Program aims to help communities work together to prevent, assess, safely clean up and sustainably reuse brownfields sites.
Other North Carolina brownfield grant recipients include Aberdeen, Dunn, High Point, Kinston, Sanford, Upper Coastal Plain Council of Governments, Wilmington and Wilson.

Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

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