The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Wednesday that it was awarding a $300,000 grant to the City of Wilson to be used to help restore deserted properties to use.
The EPA grant will be used to assess “brownfield” properties – properties that may be contaminated with hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant due to past industrial or commercial use.
“Wilson is excited to receive the maximum award EPA has granted to a community for this round,” said John Morck, Planning and Community Development Manager. “These funds will be used to help up to 16 properties assess their environmental needs, which is the first step to returning brownfields to productive use”.
Examples of brownfields are abandoned gas stations, old textile mills, industrial plants, former dry cleaners, and other abandoned industrial or commercial properties. The assessment may determine a property is safe to use or it may determine what issues need to be addressed first.
The new grants include $200,000 for evaluation of properties for hazardous substances and $100,000 to evaluate properties for underground gas tanks and other petroleum spills. Grant funds of both types also will be used to develop cleanup plans, complete endangered species surveys and cultural resource surveys, and support community involvement activities.
Wilson has used past EPA brownfield grants to evaluate properties in two target areas – Historic Downtown Wilson and the U.S. 301 corridor. One of the issues facing brownfields is that owners do not have the money to assess them, nor can they find buyers before the assessments are done.
A large section of U.S. 301 is currently being redeveloped with a federal TIGER grant and money from the N.C. Department of Transportation. This grant might boost that effort by assessing currently unused properties in the corridor and determining whether they could be redeveloped.
The EPA’s Brownfields Program encourages redevelopment of America’s estimated 450,000 brownfields sites, targeting local, under served and economically disadvantaged neighborhoods, places where environmental cleanups and new jobs are most needed.
Because of Wilson’s history as a prominent city in the development of the tobacco industry, it is no surprise that a large number of former warehouses and associated industrial facilities are part of the city’s brownfield program.