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EPA brownfield grant will assist with clean-up, reuse of Birge Street site

Vermont River Conservancy will get $200K for project

BRATTLEBORO—A former sawmill and lumber yard on Birge Street is one of six sites in Vermont that will receive funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for brownfield site revitalization efforts.

According to a news release, Vermont River Conservancy is getting a $200,000 grant for clean-up work at 250 Birge St.

The conservancy is among 221 grantees nationwide that shared in a total of $54.3 million in funding to provide communities with the resources to assess, clean up, and redevelop underutilized properties while protecting public health and the environment.

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 U.S. Cleaning up and reinvesting in these properties can increase local tax bases, facilitate job growth, utilize existing infrastructure, take development pressures away from undeveloped open land and both improve and protect the environment.

The Vermont River Conservancy was selected by the EPA for a Community-wide hazardous substances cleanup grant to be used at the vacant site at 250 Birge St.

Historically the site of an icehouse and office, it served as a sawmill and lumber storage yard from 1904 to approximately 1960, and has been vacant and unused since then, except for lumber storage. The site is contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Grant funds also will be used to conduct community outreach activities.

“Removing contaminated soils from the ’Sawdust Alley’ property in downtown Brattleboro is a crucial first step in the restoration of a 12-acre floodplain on Whetstone Brook that will alleviate flood damage to downstream properties,” said said Steve Libby, executive director of Vermont River Conservancy.

Libby said the project “will also provide a significant new open space area for Brattleboro residents to wander along the shoreline of Whetstone Brook and enjoy the birds and wildlife that will return to this urban setting,”

The EPA Brownfields Program targets communities that are economically disadvantaged and provides funding and assistance to transform contaminated sites into assets that can generate jobs and spur economic growth.

A study analyzing 48 Brownfields sites found that an estimated $29 million to $97 million in additional tax revenue was generated for local governments in a single year after cleanup. That is two to seven times more than the $12.4 million the EPA contributed to the cleanup of these brownfield sites.

Another study found that the values of homes located near brownfield sites that were cleaned up increased between 5 and 15 percent after the cleanup.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #457 (Wednesday, May 2, 2018). This story appeared on page A4.

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