EPA to DCC: Win-Win
On June 21, 2019, Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (D-12th District) announced a $400,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to the Downriver Community Conference (DCC) to help clean up and redevelop Brownfield sites in southeastern Michigan. The DCC has long been a leader in Brownfield remediation and has received more than $12.6 million towards that end since 2008.
According to the EPA, the Brownfield Program “provides grants and technical assistance to communities, states, tribes and nonprofit organizations to assess, safely clean up and sustainably reuse contaminated properties.”
A Brownfield is an abandoned industrial or commercial property complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. It is estimated that there are more than 450,000 brownfields in the United States. As part of its industrial past, Downriver residents are keenly aware of sites in our area that need remediation and reclamation. This $400,000 supplemental funding was part of 305 assessment proposals submitted to the EPA nationally, with only 104 of them funded.
Congresswoman Dingell said, “The need to clean up left-behind, contaminated brownfield sites continues to be the goal for Downriver leaders to improve livability. The Downriver Community Conference has an excellent track record of using Brownfield dollars in such a manner and the supplemental funding from EPA enables this good work to continue.”
Dingell added, “The Downriver area has many valuable natural resources that make it a safe place to live, raise families, and enjoy the outdoors.”
Executive Director of the Downriver Community Conference, Jim Perry was pleased to receive the supplemental funding, and said, “We have a long history of taking blight sites and turning them into bright sites. The DCC has worked together on behalf of all our communities, and have been very successful, and are proud to receive these funds.”
Paula Boase, Director of Economic Development for DCC explained the logistics of the $400,000 supplemental funds which will become available in October, 2019, as part of the new fiscal year for the EPA budget disbursement approvals, appropriated by Congress.
The EPA Brownfield grants may be assessment grants providing for brownsfield inventories, planning, environmental impact, and community outreach. DCC was part of the initial assessment of the McLouth Steel clean-up. Other grants may be a directly funded cleanup grant for cleanup activities at specific sites. Job training grants provide environmental clean-up training for residents who live in Brownfield affected communities. Earlier grants to the DCC provided job training at Wayne County Community College for students or adults interested in a career and/or immediate employment in restoration projects.
More likely, the $400,000 grant is part of a revolving loan fund that provides loans and subgrants to municipalities or private-public partnerships.
According to Boase, “Under EPA guidelines, the revolving fund monies will have to be loaned out three separate times on rotational basis to provide no-interest or low interest loans for Brownfield cleanups. A good portion of this recent EPA grant will be used to hire people to help clean-up the La-Z-Boy headquarters, working with the company and the City of Monroe. It’s a win-win for all concerned.”
U.S. EPA Region 5 Project Manager Brad Simple highlighted efforts to improve local economies in Brownfields: Properties with a New Purpose. citing the recent Environmental Protection projects facilitated by DCC which include the Wade McCree Estates Brownfield grant in Ecorse, Michigan.
“Constructed in the late 1950’s, the apartment buildings in the McCree Estates had become obsolete when the Ecorse Housing Commission undertook cleanup and redevelopment of the 21-acre property. Disposal of contaminated soils, removal of underground storage tanks, and abatement of asbestos was completed with a $1.3 million EPA grant awarded in 2017, and an additional $1 million provided by the State of Michigan. Once remediated, the housing commission built 200 new homes. Besides bringing new life to the site, the project provided employment to 230 construction workers and will increase the city’s property tax base for years to come.”
It’s a win-win.
Additional DCC Brownfield projects which have been recently completed include the Dearborn Artspace, which reclaimed and refurbished the old City Hall in East Dearborn providing artists and their families affordable housing, studio space, and business incubators.
Ventower Industries in Monroe, Michigan, was established in 2008, working with public and private entities to construct a state of the art wind turbine tower manufacturing facility. DCC was instrumental in the process, with more than 100 people hired, adding to the environmental and economic development of southeastern Michigan.
“Since its beginning in 1995, the DCC Brownfield Consortium has leveraged EPA’s nine million dollars in grants into over $100 million in combined investment and taxes.”
DCC Executive Director Jim Perry smiles when he says, “We’ve been busy. We continue to do the good work in revitalizing our communities and turning vacant and abandoned sites into community assets”
It’s a win-win-win.
For more information about the Downriver Community Conference, visit their website @www.dccwf.org to learn about their programs, services, partners, and community members.