Funds will supplement cleanup revolving loan fund
By Christian W. Peck
Public Information Officer
Niagara County Public Information Office
Niagara County's efforts at cleaning up the bad environmental legacy of decades as a manufacturing and technology hub paid off again, as the county secured a $500,000 grant award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to further its brownfields cleanup efforts.
The half-million-dollar grant - the largest awarded in New York state - was part of a $55.2 million package announced late Friday by the EPA. Grants of varying sizes were awarded to 130 other communities around the nation.
"These grants will empower communities to transform idle, languishing lands into vibrant hubs for business, jobs and recreation," EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said as she announced the awards on Friday. "It's all about providing that initial funding, and sparking that first conversation to set stalled sites on a path toward smart, safe redevelopment that directly benefits communities."
In Niagara County's case, that means helping with cleanup efforts through an innovative revolving loan fund that has generated $6.7 million in cleanup efforts since its inception. The latest award comes in response to a grant application produced by the Niagara County Center for Economic Development last November.
The grant will be used by the Niagara County Brownfield Development Corp. to fund grants and loans for remediation of brownfields sites throughout Niagara County.
"Protecting our environment is a top priority for our county government," said Niagara County Legislator Kathryn L. Lance, who chairs the legislature's economic development committee. "But when it comes to a legacy of environmental contamination that we have inherited, we must step up and lead on reclaiming our environment. By winning federal funds for that effort, we are making an appreciable impact on our community's environmental health."
This view was shared by the head of the county government.
"We have seen successful cleanup efforts countywide, including sites in my own hometown of Lockport, such as the Dussault Foundry," Legislature Chairman Wm. Keith McNall said. "These are contaminated legacy sites we've had to restore to a usable, productive, clean status - both for the economic benefits, and to ensure our children inherit a cleaner community from us than the one we inherited. The Center for Economic Development has proven itself a good steward of our environment."
McNall noted that, according to information provided by the EPA, studies have shown residential property values near brownfields sites that are cleaned up increased between 5 and 15 percent. Data also shows brownfields cleanups can increase overall property values within a one-mile radius.
Grants up to $200,000 will be available to municipalities and nonprofit organizations that own a brownfield site and require funding for site remediation. Low-interest loans with no minimum or maximum amount are available to the private sector for brownfield site remediation.
Funds can be used for all aspects of site cleanup. Applications for funds are accepted on a continuous basis. Program details can be found on the brownfields section of the Center for Economic Development's website at http://www.niagaracountybusiness.com/.