Niagara County will receive $3.9 million from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to clean up and redevelop brownfields, EPA Regional Administrator Lisa F. Garcia said Monday.
There are several hundred brownfield sites in Niagara County. With the EPA grant, the Niagara County Brownfields Program plans to partner with the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation to target tax-delinquent contaminated properties by taking temporary possession, have said Niagara County officials.
Niagara County has previously used EPA grants to address brownfields through its Niagara County Brownfields Program, which offers loans and grants for site cleanup. The county plans to use the $3.9 million grant to continue this work, according to Amy Fisk, brownfields program manager for the Niagara County Center for Economic Development.
The EPA selected Niagara County for the Revolving Loan Fund grant, and the $3.9 million is the highest amount granted in New York state, Garcia said at a conference. press at the Riviera Theater in North Tonawanda.
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“Through this grant, Niagara County will continue its work of cleaning up and redevelopment of brownfield sites,” Garcia said. “Brownfield sites, you bring them to pristine sites and then you can reuse them as the community and the county want, so we’re really excited about that.”
The infrastructure bill that Congress passed late last year provided the EPA with $1.5 billion, some of which is earmarked for its brownfields program. This year, more than 200 communities shared $250 million in program grants. Twelve of the grants were awarded in New York State for a total of $10.5 million.
Including past grants, Niagara County has received more than $9.5 million from the EPA, including $2.3 million for brownfields.
Brownfields are properties that have been contaminated with hazardous substances and pollutants.
The EPA has helped leverage millions of dollars in private investment across the country through its brownfields grants, Representative Brian Higgins said.
Higgins said he expects the same impact in Niagara County.
“For every dollar invested in brownfield redevelopment, you get about $20 in private sector investment,” Higgins said. “This is an investment in the health and safety of our communities.”
Many Niagara County brownfields are remnants of Western New York’s history as an industrial economy.
“The reality is, it was an industrial county. It was the lifeblood. It was the economy for so long, and I don’t want to apologize for that,” State Sen. Robert Ortt said. . “But we now know that when those projects left, they left a legacy that needs to be addressed.”
Monday’s press conference site is an example of how a federal grant helped clean up a property that led to development. A petroleum and asbestos contaminated auto repair shop was once located behind the theater. In 2014, a $350,000 grant enabled the historic theater to clean up the site before building an expansion.
The Remington Lofts apartment complex and Buffalo Bolt Business Park are also former brownfields in North Tonawanda that were redeveloped with EPA grants.
“Fifteen years ago, North Tonawanda was a different place,” Ortt said. “Thanks to programs and dollars like what we recognize here today, North Tonawanda has had a renaissance, a renaissance just like Buffalo and much of Western New York.”
Municipalities and developers interested in applying for loans and grants can go to https://www.niagaracountybusiness.com/brownfields for more information.