Among the many hurdles to brownfields assessment, remediation, and redevelopment, funding is often the most significant. But thanks to a new federal law, the funding outlook for brownfields projects in the United States has never been better.
Enacted last November, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provided $1.5 billion over five years in federal funding for the Brownfields Program at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This funding represents an approximately six-fold increase over typical annual spending levels for the program. Of the $1.5 billion, $600 million is allocated to assessment grants, which recipients may use to determine the extent of contamination and plan revitalization at brownfield sites. Another $160 million is for cleanup grants, and $150 million for multipurpose grants, which may be used for planning, assessing, and cleaning up sites.
In some cases, cost-share requirements are waived, making the money even more accessible to cash-strapped local governments. However, application deadlines are approaching, so communities looking to obtain their share of this grant funding need to have a plan.
Barriers to growth
A brownfield is a property that is difficult to develop because it is contaminated or believed to be contaminated. Unlike a superfund site, a brownfield may have any number of potential contaminants, including hazardous substances, petroleum, asbestos, lead-based paint, mold, meth-lab residue, or mine-scarred lands.
The EPA estimates that more than 450,000 brownfields exist in the United States. Unless addressed, such sites can hamper local development efforts and preclude economic growth.
To facilitate their development, some sites must undergo an extensive assessment process and, if necessary, cleanup. Although grant funding for these activities is available from the EPA and states, navigating the application processes can be confusing and time-consuming. For this reason, communities often opt to work with a trusted partner that can help them overcome the many hurdles in their way.
Help with grant funding
Working with rural and urban communities, state regulators, and the EPA’s Brownfields Program, Atlas helps to revitalize communities by providing critical research needed for successful grant applications. We offer a wealth of expertise with an experienced brownfields team that includes grant writers, licensed geologists and engineers, certified hazardous materials managers, certified industrial hygienists, certified safety professionals, and EPA-certified asbestos and lead-based paint building inspectors and risk assessors.
The company has a proven track record in helping communities procure much-needed funds for brownfields assessment, mitigation, and redevelopment. Some of the recent grants that Atlas has helped to obtain include:
- Gila County Brownfields Coalition, EPA Community-Wide Assessment Grant, awarded in 2021
- Vermillion County, Indiana, EPA Brownfields Community-Wide Assessment Grant, awarded in 2022
- City of Lebanon, Indiana, EPA Brownfields Community-Wide Assessment Grants, awarded in 2014, 2019, and 2022
- Town of Superior, Arizona, Community Development Block Grant for Assessment and Abatement, awarded in 2021
- City of Terre Haute, Indiana, EPA Brownfields Community-wide Assessment Grant, awarded in 2020
- Town of Chester, Connecticut, Connecticut Municipal Brownfields Grant for Assessment, awarded in 2022
- City of Indianapolis, Indiana, EPA Brownfields Multi-Purpose Grant, awarded in 2019
- Lawrenceburg, Aurora, Greendale and Dearborn County Coalition, Indiana, EPA Brownfields Coalition Assessment Grant, awarded in 2019
Obtaining an EPA grant for brownfields-related work can benefit communities in many ways, as shown by the example of the grant to Gila County. Serving as the grant administrator, the county represents a coalition of small communities in Arizona that share a prominent history of copper mining that continues today. Known as the “Copper Corridor,” the communities have worked with Atlas to address blight issues and win the EPA grant. Armed with this funding, the communities can begin to assess and prioritize their needs, the first step in solving challenges pertaining to brownfields.
After an Award
Winning a grant is only the first step. Atlas collaborates with grant recipients to facilitate public outreach to affected communities. The outreach events are designed to provide information about the brownfield assessment and redevelopment process, benefits to the community, and additional funding opportunities and low-interest loan funding for eligible property-owners.
Atlas also stands ready to help communities submit necessary post-award application materials, engage and inform stakeholders and community residents, develop or expand current brownfield inventories, as well as conduct the assessment and remediation of identified brownfield sites. We have extensive experience performing hundreds of brownfields projects with EPA oversight throughout the United States during the last 20 years.
For example, Atlas has been working with the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community—a Native tribe located in the Phoenix metropolitan area—to implement a $750,000 EPA Brownfields grant that was awarded in 2021. To this end, Atlas is creating an all-encompassing Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP) and Sampling and Analysis Plan, both of which are required by the EPA to be completed and approved before initiating sampling or cleanup activities utilizing grant funds.
On the same project, Atlas has also been tapped to complete Phase I Environmental Site Assessments and Phase II Environmental Site Assessments, following ASTM standards, and complete ground-penetrating radar investigations and surveys. Atlas also will create an environmental records database, for future use, and conduct a brownfields survey of the community to assist with the creation of a community-wide inventory of blighted properties within the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.
Atlas provides professional testing, inspection, engineering, environmental, and consulting services from more than 150 locations nationwide, enabling us to provide our clients with a superior level of consistent support and resources no matter where their projects may be located. The company employs more than 3,500 professional staff, including professional engineers, geologists and environmental specialists who can be accessed as needed to provide additional project support.
From obtaining grant funding to conducting the necessary assessments and cleanup, Atlas can help communities of all sizes address their needs regarding brownfields and unlock the economic and social potential of sites that currently are difficult or impossible to develop.