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Missoula receives $1.1 million to clean up and revitalize properties

Posted at 11:00 PM, May 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-07 01:01:14-04

On Wednesday the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that Missoula will receive $1,126,725 in EPA Brownfields grant funding to assess, clean up and revitalize property at several project locations, including the land adjacent to Montana Rail Link Park.

Missoula is among 151 communities across the nation receiving over $65.6 million in EPA Brownfields funding through their Assessment, Revolving Loan Fund, and Cleanup Grant programs. Under President Trump’s administration, EPA has delivered approximately $287 million in Brownfields grants directly to communities and nonprofits for cleanup and redevelopment, job creation, and economic development through the award of over 948 grants.

Missoula will receive two EPA Brownfields grants, an $800,000 Brownfields Revolving Loan Fund grant and a $326,725 EPA Brownfields Cleanup grant. The cleanup grant will be used to remove contamination at the Montana Rail Link Triangle site, a former maintenance property at 1930 South Ave. W. and bounded by Johnson Street, North Avenue West, and the Bitterroot Spur Trail line. The site is contaminated with polycyclic aromatic compounds, inorganic contaminants, and heavy metals. The Brownfields Revolving Loan Fund grant will capitalize a fund from which Missoula provides loans and sub-grants to support cleanup activities across the community. Current activities are focused on the railroad neighborhood of Westside, which is located within a Qualified Opportunity Zone, and the Bitterroot Spur Corridor.

“EPA is proud to support the city of Missoula, as well as the impressive network of community and business leaders dedicated to the vitality of the city, as they continue to find opportunities to clean up and restore properties to productive use,” said EPA regional administrator Gregory Sopkin in a press release. “These Brownfields funds will advance projects and leverage investments that benefit residents in neighborhoods across the city.”

“While lots of things are uncertain these days, we know that the city of Missoula will bounce back, in no small part by doing the things we’ve always done well," Missoula mayor John Engen added in the release. “Among those things we do well is work with federal and community partners to create lasting value by cleaning up old environmental damage and redeveloping sites that would otherwise sit idle. Our partnership with EPA has been enormously successful and this additional award will ensure that we continue to do the right thing for Missoula in partnership.”

Nationwide, this year, the agency is announcing the selection of 155 grants for communities and tribes totaling over $65.6 million in EPA Brownfields funding the agency’s Assessment, Revolving Loan Fund, and Cleanup Grant Programs. These funds will aid under-served and economically disadvantaged communities, including neighborhoods located in Opportunity Zones, in assessing and cleaning up abandoned industrial and commercial properties. An Opportunity Zone is an economically-distressed community where new investment, under certain conditions, may be eligible for preferential tax treatment. Of the 151 total communities selected, 118 of these communities can potentially assess or clean up brownfield sites in census tracts designated in these zones. In addition, nearly 30% of the communities selected today will receive brownfields funding for the first time.

Grants awarded by EPA’s Brownfields program provide communities across the country with an opportunity to transform contaminated sites into community assets that attract jobs and achieve broader economic development outcomes, while taking advantage of existing infrastructure. For example, brownfields grants are shown to:

  • Increase Local Tax Revenue: A study of 48 brownfields sites found that an estimated $29 million to $97 million in additional local tax revenue was generated in a single year after cleanup. This is two to seven times more than the $12.4 million EPA contributed to the cleanup of these sites.
  • Increase Residential Property Values: Another study found that property values of homes near revitalized brownfields sites increased between 5% and 15% following cleanup.

A brownfield is a property for which the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. There are estimated to be more than 450,000 brownfields in the United States. EPA’s Brownfields program began in 1995 and has provided nearly $1.6 billion in brownfield grants to assess and clean up contaminated properties and return blighted properties to productive reuse. To date, brownfields investments have leveraged more than $31 billion in cleanup and redevelopment. Over the years, the relatively small investment of federal funding, from both public and private sources, leveraged more than 160,000 jobs. The next National Brownfields Training Conference will be held on April 26-30, 2021, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Offered every two years, this conference is the largest gathering of stakeholders focused on cleaning up and reusing former commercial and industrial properties. EPA co-sponsors this event with the International City/County Management Association.

Here is a list of the FY 2020 applicants selected for funding.

Here is more information on the Brownfields grants.

Here is more information on EPA's Brownfields program.

Here is more information on the studies related to the Brownfields program’s environmental and economic benefits.