Niagara County nets $350k brownfields rehab grantby jmaloni
Will be used for loans to remediate contaminated sites
by Christian W. Peck
Public Information Officer
Niagara County Public Information Office
Following the successful launch of a brownfield rehabilitation effort in North Tonawanda last week, county officials were notified Wednesday that the county has been awarded an additional $350,000 in cleanup money.
The Environmental Protection Agency notified Niagara County economic development officials in a letter received Wednesday, which stated in part that the EPA was "pleased to see the progress Niagara County has made" and vowed to continue working with the county on brownfields cleanups. The funding was granted in response to an earlier application filed by the county's Economic Development Department at the urging of county lawmakers.
The funds will be made available for brownfields revitalization by private-sector entities through the county's Brownfields Cleanup Revolving Loan Fund.
"The county government has made repairing the bad parts of our county's environmental legacy a top priority," said Niagara County Legislature Economic Development Committee Chairwoman Kathryn Lance, R-Wheatfield. "As chairwoman of the Economic Development Committee, I have instructed Economic Development Department staff to direct appropriate resources to ensuring that we achieve a better, safer future for our families - and so we can return brownfields to the tax rolls as productive, job-creating land."
Lance noted that county lawmakers, state leaders including Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-Newfane, and the government of North Tonawanda had just marked the initiation of a demolition project at North Tonawanda's Historic Riviera Theatre late last week, which will remove a contaminated eyesore and allow the theater to expand, and that the infusion of new funding from the EPA means the county will be able to provide needed financial backing for similar projects in the future.
"The EPA continues to be a strong partner and friend to Niagara County, and we're grateful to them for once again affirming our efforts on behalf of our environment and our next generation of county residents," Lance said.
The EPA funds reinvigorate a program that has seen enormous success, rehabilitating sites contaminated by pollutants in the City of Lockport, Cambria, Niagara Falls and North Tonawanda.
Lance pointed to rehabilitation efforts at former missile bases in Cambria and a former foundry in Lockport as well as the Riviera project as proof the brownfields rehabilitation efforts work.
"Our county has seen real progress, from being able to give the Dussault Foundry in Lockport a clean bill of health to cleaning up an old Cold War surface-to-air missile site, and we know that many more sites remain," said Lance, who is a teacher in her day job. "Our Legislature's Majority is committed to a goal of restoring our environment for our children and their children."
Lance offered high praise for county employees involved in the efforts.
"Economic Development Commissioner Sam Ferraro and Senior Planner Amy Fisk, who heads up most of our county's brownfields program, put in the hours to secure this funding, and our community is better for it," Lance said. "I know they are eager to work with private-sector partners to put this funding to use."
Lance urged businesses considering site cleanups to visit the Niagara County Center for Economic Development's website at www.niagaracountybusiness.com and familiarize themselves with the brownfields loan application process under the "Programs and Incentives" tab.
"We want businesses and property owners to talk with us and look at ways we can help undo damage from the past," Lance said. "Our Brownfields Cleanup Revolving Loan Fund is an important tool, and we intend to continue making effective use of it."