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EPA awards Niagara County $300K to assess contaminated sites


SANBORN -- Niagara County yet again captured a high-dollar grant to fund its work remediating contaminated sites left over from the county's industrial history, scoring $300,000 from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to fund site assessment work.

The award was one of just three issued across New York state, and is the latest for a program that has brought in millions of dollars to help rehabilitate industrial brownfield sites across the county. The maximum award allowed under the program's rules was $300,000.

"This is a win for our county, a win for environmental health, and a win for returning idle land to productive commercial and industrial use," said Legislator Kathryn L. Lance, R-Wheatfield, the chairwoman of the County Legislature's Economic Development Committee. "Reclamation of contaminated sites has been a top priority for county government for the last decade and a half, and our track record on brownfields reclamation has been solid, with literally hundreds of sites assessed by our Center for Economic Development.

The award—which comes in two parts, $100,000 for petroleum contamination assessment and $200,000 for non-petroleum hazardous substances—will allow the county to continue its assessment program. The assessment work is separate from the county's Brownfield Development Corp., which has also seen significant success with its revolving loan fund.

"In past years, our assessment program has led to real progress, turning contaminated sites back into economically viable parcels," Lance said. "Some examples include the Remington Rand site in North Tonawanda, the South Junior High School in Niagara Falls that is being converted into apartments, and the Washington Hunt Elementary School in Lockport, which is being reborn as a gym."

The $300,000 funding request was developed by Brownfields Development Corp. President Amy Fisk, a senior planner at the county's Center for Economic Development. Fisk and Lance stressed that the county placed an emphasis on assessing tax-delinquent parcels. This includes both Phase I and Phase II Environmental Site Assessments, which range from review of paperwork and database information to on-site sampling and testing.

"Determining the level of contamination will allow these properties to be remediated and returned to productive use, returning them to the tax rolls and allowing the private sector to create jobs there," Lance said. "Cleaning up and reinvesting in these properties protects the environment, reduces blight, and takes development pressures off greenspaces and working lands. Ultimately, we want to bring these parcels back to life."

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/.