May 18, 2009

Rhode Island Receives $1.8 Million to Clean Up Brownfields

Federal Funding to Support Work in East Providence, Glocester, Pawtucket, and Woonsocket

Pawtucket, RI – U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) today visited a former industrial site in Pawtucket to announce $1.8 million in federal aid they secured to clean up brownfield sites in communities across Rhode Island. The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) and Woonsocket will receive a total of $1.2 million in brownfield funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which Senators Reed and Whitehouse and Representatives Patrick Kennedy and Jim Langevin supported and was signed into law by President Obama on February 17, 2009. East Providence, Glocester, and Pawtucket will receive a total of $600,000 in competitive brownfield grants.

A brownfield site is property where expansion or redevelopment is complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. The senators were joined at the event by Pawtucket Mayor James Doyle and Stephen Perkins, Acting Deputy Regional Administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Region 1.

Reed and Whitehouse made today’s announcement at a former industrial laundry facility at 354 Pine Street in Pawtucket, in use from the early 1960s to the 1990s. The soil and groundwater there are now contaminated with chlorinated hydrocarbons associated with the release of solvents. The city will receive $200,000 in competitive brownfields grant funding to safely remove the hazardous substances; grant funds also will be used to monitor engineering and land-use restrictions and support community involvement activities. Cleanup work will support approximately 10 jobs, according to the City of Pawtucket, and the EPA projects that the project is expected to create 10 post-remediation full-time manufacturing jobs.

“Environmental revitalization and economic development go hand-in-hand. This federal funding will go a long way toward revitalizing these sites and restoring them to productive use,” said Senator Jack Reed, a member of the Appropriations subcommittee that oversees federal funding for Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) programs. “Not only will this federal investment help protect the health and well being of residents and the environment, but it will generate job growth, help increase surrounding property values, and strengthen the local economy.”

“Cleaning up pollution in places like these is good for our environment, good for our economy, and good for our communities,” said Whitehouse, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Brownfield program at the Environmental Protection Agency.

“This federal investment will help the state to assess, clean up, and restore brownfields sites to productive use. I am extremely pleased these grant applications were selected by the EPA to help protect public health, create immediate jobs, and advance environmental restoration that will strengthen our local economies,” said Kennedy.

“A clean and healthy environment is key to reviving our economy in Rhode Island,” said Langevin. “These Brownfield grants will help move remediation projects forward and allow companies to hire additional employees.”

Other Rhode Island communities receiving competitive brownfields grant funding are:

East Providence, which will receive $200,000 in hazardous substances grant funds to clean up the Riverside Square Project at 336-348 Bullocks Point Avenue and 12 Fenner Avenue. The site was a jewelry plating and manufacturing facility from 1960 until 2002, and has been vacant since 2002. It is contaminated with trichloroethylene, heavy metals, and inorganic contaminants. The area surrounding the Riverside Square site is a commercial center in the heart of an underserved residential community. Grant funds also will be used for community outreach activities.

Glocester, which will receive $200,000 in hazardous substances grant funds to clean up the 17-acre Chepachet River Park site along the east side of Putnam Pike and Oil Mill Lane in Chepachet. The currently vacant site has a 200-year history operating as a cotton mill, blacksmith shop, oil mill, and textile mill. Site contaminants include heavy metals and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Once it’s cleaned up, the town intends to reuse the site as a community park.

Funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will go to:

Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, which will receive a $1 million brownfields assessment coalition grant. Community-wide hazardous substances grant funds will be used to inventory sites and conduct a minimum of 25 Phase I and 10 Phase II environmental site assessments. RIDEM expects to focus 60 percent of the grant in Central Falls, Pawtucket, and Cumberland, and the remainder on properties throughout the state. Grant funds also will be used to support community outreach activities.

Woonsocket, which will receive $200,000 in hazardous substances grant funds to clean up the former Lafayette Worsted Company Office Buildings at 150 Hamlet Avenue. The site is a former textile mill and manufacturing facility contaminated with metals and semi-volatile organic compounds co-mingled with petroleum products. The cleanup effort is part of a larger redevelopment plan by the city to replace a 20-acre industrial brownfield with a new middle school campus.

Both the Recovery Act funding and the grants will be administered by EPA through its Brownfield Program, which empowers states and local communities to work together to assess, clean up, and redevelop brownfield sites.

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