Colorado towns get $2.4 million from EPA for cleanups, as GOP seeks to slash the agency’s budget

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EPA grants have helped clean up acid mine drainage at abandoned mines in Colorado. @bberwyn photo.

Denver gets $1 million for South Platte River work; Fort Collins will use grant to tackle Poudre River corridor restoration

Staff Report

FRISCO — Even as right-wing anti-environmental lawmakers in Congress seek to slash the EPA’s budget, the agency in the past couple of weeks announced $2.4 million in grants that will help Colorado communities clean up and revitalize areas that have been tainted by the same big industrial companies that support those legislators.

In the Denver Metro area, the City and County of Denver and the City of Northglenn will each receive $400,000, and Adams County will receive $200,000. Across the country, the EPA made 243 grant investments  totaling $54.3 million to 147 communities.

The City and County of Denver will use the EPA Brownfields grant funds to conduct environmental assessments along the South Platte River corridor and create new redevelopment opportunities that connect with projects underway throughout the area.

Specifically, the city will conduct critical assessments at approximately 12 brownfield sites as part of the South Platte RiverPlace Initiative. These assessments will complement efforts to revitalize properties in environmental justice communities near the National Western Stock Show Complex in north Denver and at properties near the Denver Housing Authority’s mixed use, transit-oriented development project in the Sun Valley neighborhood.

Both areas have a history of intensive industrial and commercial activity—including rail facilities, power plants, industrial cleaners, gas stations and auto service facilities, and manufacturing plants—and contain vacant buildings in need of reinvestment, repair or demolition.

The City’s efforts to redevelop these areas include plans to create new housing, community jobs and public access to the South Platte River.

Northglenn will use the grant funds to support the assessment, cleanup and redevelopment of several properties along the West 104th commercial district. Potential targets include vacant and partially vacant commercial structures in need of cleanup and redevelopment, including the Huron Center and Northglenn Marketplace.

Potential environmental concerns at these and other properties include water drainage and flooding issues and potential contamination associated with former dry cleaners and auto service facilities. The rehabilitation of these properties will create new business opportunities and restore jobs and tax revenues in the targeted area.

In Adams County, the $200,000 will be used to assess contamination in an industrial area along a two-mile corridor of Clear Creek Valley bordered by Huron St. to the east, and the banks of Clear Creek to the north and west. Interstate 76 cuts through the area, with properties on both the north and south side of this corridor.

The area is characterized by large swaths of blighted abandoned or underutilized properties that have impacted the Berkeley, Guardian Angel and Goat Hill neighborhoods. The properties are the legacy of decades of use for aggregate mining and industrial activity or as former landfills. Because of these historical uses, the land is perceived as contaminated, which has served as a deterrent to development.

The assessment of these properties will identify cleanup needs and redevelopment opportunities to connect the creek to adjacent neighborhoods and new transportation corridors.
“EPA Brownfields grants continue to help communities in the Denver area transform blighted properties into public and economic assets,” said EPA regional administrator, Shaun McGrath. “These investments are removing contamination, reconnecting neighborhoods with riverfront areas, and creating new opportunities for people to live, play, and do business.”

There are an estimated 450,000 abandoned and contaminated sites in the United States. Since the inception of the program in 1995, cumulative brownfield program investments have leveraged more than $22 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 approximately 105,942 jobs nationwide.

Fort Collins will use the EPA grant to expand local efforts to assess, clean up and redevelop properties along the Poudre River and the northern edge of the city’s downtown business district.

Fort Collins will work closely with the Downtown Development Authority and Larimer County Coalition Partners to use the EPA grant funds to conduct a community-wide assessment of properties contaminated with petroleum and hazardous substances in an area known as the Poudre River/North College Innovation District.

The target area is characterized by blighted and contaminated properties associated with manufactured gas production, automotive operations, gas stations, and dry cleaning facilities. The cleanup and redevelopment of these properties will connect the area with other parts of downtown and help restore access to the riverfront.

In Creede, the $200,000 EPA grant will help with restoration of Lower Willow Creek to cap and remove contamination in a target area known as the Floodplain Property, a highly visible site composed of alluvial rock and devoid of vegetation due to high concentrations of metals related to former mine waste processing activities at the site.

Primary contaminants of concern include arsenic, lead and zinc. The effort to cap and re-vegetate the impacted area with a layer of clean soil will reduce the risk of wind-borne metals blowing into nearby areas and improve groundwater and water quality in Willow Creek. The results of the cleanup will improve the floodplain habitat and reduce exposure risks to nearby businesses, residents and recreational users.

“EPA Brownfields grants are helping communities like Creede address environmental risks and improve the quality of important local water resources,” McGrath said. “These types of investments not only address contamination, they also create new opportunities for people to live, play, and do business,” he added.

A $200,000 grant to Eads will help pay to clean up, demolish and redevelop a blighted former motel and residence at 1209 Maine Street in downtown Eads, Colo. Once cleanup is completed, the County will make the site, which sits on a prominent business location in town, available for commercial use.

Trinidad will get $500,000 to clean up and redevelop properties as part of a Brownfields Coalition that includes the Town of Aguilar and Las Animas County, Colorado. Mine-scarred lands and railroad corridors are targeted for the cleanup, including waste rock, dumps, tailings, and waste piles, which can contain heavy metals and other hazardous pollutants, and pose a risk to residents and nearby waterways.

The City of Trinidad will serve as the lead Coalition partner and will work closely with the county and smaller communities to prioritize projects that eliminate environmental risks and offer potential redevelopment opportunities.

More information on Brownfields grants by state: http://cfpub.epa.gov/bf_factsheets/



More Brownfields information:
 http://www.epa.gov/brownfields/
Success Stories http://www.epa.gov/brownfields/success/index.htm

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