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COG gets $300,000 EPA Brownfields grant

The Environmental Protection Agency is awarding a $300,000 Brownfields Assessment Grant to determine the extent of contamination of commercial and industrial sites around Franklin County.

The funding — $200,000 for hazardous contamination and $100,000 for petroleum contamination — marks the sixth round of Brownfields grants to the Franklin Regional Council of Governments. Since the COG’s Regional Brownfields Program began in 1999 with $1 million in assessment funds, 56 sites have been assessed in 17 towns, There is also $1.5 million in EPA cleanup money available as part of a revolving low-interest loan fund that also can provide subgrants to communities of up to $200,000 per site.

A “brownfield” is defined by EPA as a property where expansion, redevelopment or reuse may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant.

“We’ve just about spent down our last grant, so this is welcome news to continue our program,” said regional Planning Director Peggy Sloan. “Because we’ve had the assessment program over a long period of time, it’s led to remediation and cleanup of projects, so having funding available that could lead to cleanup is key.”

The grants can fund an environment engineering firm to complete environmental site assessment reports, including soil and groundwater testing as well as preparation of remediation plans if necessary, at no cost to the town or eligible property owner.

Sites assessed under the most recent, $200,000 round, included the former Bendix factory site and a Fiske Avenue parking lot in Greenfield, the former Strathmore paper mill in Turners Falls, and the Ashfield House in Ashfield. The most recent remediated projects include the Erving Paper Mills Usher Plant and a Strathmore mill building in Turners Falls.

The three-year grant should become available this fall, Sloan said. The program gives priority to projects in “economic justice” areas, where there’s a relative concentration of minority population or low- and moderate-income households.

Oversight of the COG’s Brownfields Program is conducted by a steering committee composed of members of town governments, regional organizations and private business.

A Brownfields assessment helped cleared the way for redevelopment of the former Greenfield Toyota site on Bank Row into the new John W. Olver Regional Transit Center.

You can reach Richie Davis at: rdavis@recorder.com: or 413-772-0261, Ext. 269

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