Cuyahoga county land bank gets federal grant to assess brownfield sites

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Cuyahoga county land bank gets federal grant to assess brownfield sites

April 21, 2010 [Sandra Livingston, The Plain Dealer]

CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Cuyahoga County land bank has been awarded $400,000 in federal grants to assess contaminated sites for environmental risks and potential redevelopment.

The dollars are among nearly $80 million the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is giving to communities around the country to assess, clean up and redevelop brownfield sites. In Ohio, the EPA is providing more than $5.3 million, including $400,000 for the city of Lorain and $200,000 for Akron.

“Cleaning up and revitalizing these contaminated sites opens doors to new businesses, new homes and new jobs for American workers while making our environment cleaner and the community healthier,” EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said in a prepared statement.

Cuyahoga County has more than 350 known brownfield sites, most in Cleveland and the inner-ring suburbs, according to the EPA. The agency says population loss and the economic downturn have created numerous contaminated sites and foreclosed properties.

At the same time, the struggling economy makes it more difficult for the private sector to contend financially with contaminated sites that could otherwise be ripe for redevelopment.

“The money is critical,” said Gus Frangos, president of the land bank. “It will enable us to assess priority sites within communities that are struggling with environmentally unclean properties.”

Frangos said the land bank hasn’t decided on particular projects but will look at residential, commercial or industrial sites where the grant dollars could make a key difference. He said assessments, for example, can determine whether there’s underground contamination at a closed gas station or whether a building slated for demolition has an asbestos problem — and that knowledge in turn can make it easier to secure cleanup dollars or provide more certainty to potential developers.

The ultimate aim is “redevelopment of communities and jobs,” Frangos said.

The EPA’s largest brownfield grants in Ohio are going to Hancock County and the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority. Each is getting $1 million.