Four New Jersey Cities to Clean Up Contaminated Sites

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The New Jersey cities of Trenton, Jersey City, Newark, and Camden are set to receive a total of $2.3 million dollars from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to help them assess and clean up contaminated and abandoned sites. The funding will be channeled through the EPA’s Brownfields Program. The clean up projects will help revitalize commercial and industrial properties by removing the toxic pollution that has hindered their redevelopment.

A brownfield site, or brownfield as it is commonly called, is a piece of land that was formerly used for industrial or commercial purposes, but is now abandoned or underused. Brownfield sites are perceived to be contaminated with low concentrations of hazardous waste, but have the potential to contain high concentrations of such waste. The pollutants are usually petroleum products often leaked from underground storage tanks or buried drums, but may include a number of toxic chemicals and organic compounds.

The Brownfields Program has been in existence since the EPA designated its first brownfield site in 1993 in Cuyahoga County in Ohio. Brownfields hold a special status because even though they are contaminated, they are not quite so bad to be included on the EPA’s National Priorities List, otherwise known as Superfund. The Brownfields Program does have a number of benefits including the following:

  • Projects have gained $18.68 per EPA dollar spent
  • Projects have leveraged over 61,000 jobs nationwide
  • Projects can increase nearby residential property values 2 to 3 percent when completed
  • Projects can assist in area-wide planning and revitalize neighborhoods
  • Projects take development pressure off open space by opening up abandoned urban sites

“The EPA brownfields grants will help revitalize parts of Trenton, Jersey City, Newark and Camden from both an environmental and economic development perspective,” said Judith Enck, Regional Administrator. “Not only will these cleanups protect the health of area residents, they will provide opportunities for development projects that benefit communities, produce jobs, and improve the quality of people’s lives.”

This funding is possible through the Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act passed by Congress in 2002. The law mandates the EPA to provide financial assistance to applicants through four competitive grant programs: assessment, revolving loan fund, cleanup, and job training. There are an estimated 450,000 brownfield sites in America, and this law hopes to make a dent in that number.

The following cities have received brownfield grants in New Jersey.

Trenton

The New Jersey capital city will receive $500,000 in grants to clean up brownfields. Of the total, $400,000 will be designated for the clean up of the Anthony Storcella property at 21 Nottingham Way and the Greg Grant site at 927-939 East State Street and Freeman Lane. The Storcella site was used for textile and rubber manufacturing, coal distribution, and machine shop activities. Contaminants at the site include carcinogenic organic compounds called PCBs and toxic metals. The Grant site used to be an automobile storage garage, laundry, and dry cleaning facility, and is contaminated with hydrocarbons known as PAHs and toxic metals.

Once the projects are completed, the city of Trenton plans to transform the Storcella site to a farmer’s market which is expected to create jobs, provide fresh produce, and encourage investment in the neighborhood. The Grant site will be redeveloped into 20 new units of affordable housing.

Jersey City

The Jersey City Redevelopment Agency will receive $600,000 in grants, of which $400,000 will go to the clean up of two properties located on Garfield Avenue. They were junkyards at one point and are now contaminated with PAHs and toxic metals. The other $200,000 will be used to clean up a former gas station also on Garfield Avenue.

Newark

The state’s largest city is set to receive $600,000 for three brownfield sites. Two sites are part of the former Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company site on McCarter Highway. Contaminants include solvents and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which can cause a number of serious health issues. At one of these sites, ten underground storage tanks are to be removed, while the other will have ground water wells installed to better understand the contamination. The third site to receive funds is the former Synfax Manufacturing facility on Avenue P, a former dump contaminated with PCBs, solvents, and other VOCs.

Camden

Camden, one of the state’s former industrial powerhouses, will be receiving $600,000 through the Camden Redevelopment Agency for the cleanup of three sites within the ABC Barrel facility at North Front Street, North Second Street, and Penn Street in the Cooper Grant neighborhood. The facility was a former wool mill, steam laundry, and drum refurbishing facility, now contaminated with VOCs and toxic metals.

Once the projects are completed, the city of Camden plans to build 10 new homes as part of a larger residential project that would also include open space for park and recreational use.

The funding for the cleanups at these sites is just the newest addition to a much larger national effort to address abandoned and contaminated sites. Since the Brownfield Program began, the EPA has awarded over 2,619 grants at a total of $787 million. The current EPA Administrator, Lisa Jackson, has increased the program’s 2011 budget of $215 million which is to be focused on planning, cleanup, job training, and redevelopment. Brownfield remediation in Trenton, Jersey City, Newark, and Camden will provide benefits to the cities, both environmental and economic.

For further information: Brownfields and Land Revitalization – US EPA

For further information: US EPA Press Release

Article by David Gabel appearing courtesy Environmental News Network.

photo: Payton Chung

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