On May 6, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded nearly $2.1 million to New Jersey and several of the state’s largest cities under a program meant to cover the costs of cleaning up polluted properties and putting them back on the market.
The New Jersey Economic Development Authority will get $800,000, which it will use to provide grants and low-interest loans toward environmental clean-up and revitalization, according to the EPA.
Under this “Brownfields Revolving Grant Fund,” the money will go toward overturning empty or vacant properties into things that would benefit the neighborhoods, such as housing, retail, parks and recreation, or social services. The loans are repaid and the NJEDA can then lend out the money for other brownfields projects.
“Supporting communities as they work to clean up and revitalize contaminated properties is crucial for creating vibrant cities and neighborhoods and stimulating economic growth,” NJEDA Chief Executive Officer Tim Sullivan said in a Thursday statement from the state agency.
The money, Sullivan added, “will have a particularly significant impact now, when resources are stretched thin everywhere due to COVID-19.”
Camden will get a $500,000 Brownfields Cleanup Grant to revitalize the old Borden Chemical Site, a 2.7-acre piece of land which for the better part of a century produced steam heating, followed by printer ink between 1980 and 1983.
“Camden still carries the environmental burden and cleaning up costs associated with our industrialized past,” Camden Mayor Frank Moran said in a statement. The grant will go a long way in helping a downtrodden piece of land in the city, he added.
A $299,451 Brownfields Assessment Grant will be awarded toward Cooper’s Ferry Partnership for a brownfields assessment.
“The North Camden Community-Wide Assessment Project will target areas designated for development in the North Camden neighborhood of the City of Camden, New Jersey where about 80 acres of land, equivalent to 29 percent of the neighborhood’s total parcel area, are recognized as identified or suspected brownfields,” Cooper’s Ferry Chief Executive Officer Kris Kolluri said.
Jersey City will get a $500,000 grant to clean up the Mill Creek site, which at the turn of the century was used for steel production, scrap metal manufacturing, smelting and refining. The site has been heavily polluted by polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), a skin-irritating chemical.
“Once remediated, the area will provide increased access to open space for our residents, improved water quality, and enhanced ecological health,” Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop said Thursday.
Brownfields, according to the EPA, are properties where cleanup and redevelopment are simply too complicated because of the high levels of dangerous pollution, hence the need for government support and funding.
There are roughly 450,000 brownfields sites across the nation, and the EPA said that since 1995 it has awarded $1.6 billion brownfields grants, meant to cover some of the costs of turning around any tracts of land.
“The EPA brownfields program has helped New Jersey’s communities by transforming once-vacant properties into beacons of hope, especially for many economically disadvantaged neighborhoods,” EPA Regional Administrator Pete Lopez said in a Thursday statement.
“Vacant or contaminated land may not feel or look like a community asset waiting to happen, but with the right knowledge, skills, vision and investment, these properties offer local governments and neighborhoods some of the best opportunities to transform their futures.”
Editor’s note: A previous version of this story indicated that the $299,451 grant to Cooper’s Ferry Partnership would pay for the clean-up of 80 acres of pollution along Camden’s waterfront; that is not correct. The grant will pay for a brownfields assessment. It was updated at 4:32 p.m. EST on May 6, 2020.