By SHERRI KOLADE
DEARBORN — The Downriver Community Conference is slated to receive $650,000 in grants for its efforts in turning contaminated properties into reusable entities that create jobs and green space.
During a May 31 grant announcement outside of City Hall, Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator Susan Hedman said the $3.2 million grant will go toward Michigan’s cleanup effort.
“Indeed a healthy environment is the foundation for a strong economy and environmental improvement,” Hedman said. “(That) can often be a catalyst for growing the economy.”
Growing the economy is not a new concept to the The Downriver Community Conference, a consortium of about 15 communities including Dearborn, in which workers and businesses use joint efforts to shape public policy at federal, state, regional, county and local levels. The Downriver Community Conference Board will decide what future redevelopment project will need to be funded on an as needed basis.
Since 1997, EPA has provided $2.6 million in grants to the Downriver Community Conference to assess brownfield sites, which are properties capable of expansion, redevelopment, or reuse but the property might have a presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant, according to epa.gov.
EPA’s Brownfield Program provides direct funding for brownfield assessment, cleanup, revolving loans, and environmental job training, according to epa.gov. To facilitate the leveraging of public resources, EPA’s Brownfield Program collaborates with other EPA programs, federal partners, and state agencies to identify and make available resources that can be used for brownfield activities. In addition to direct brownfield funding, EPA also provides technical information on brownfields financing matters, according to the site.
Mayor John O’Reilly Jr. spoke during the event, and said Brownfield grants are critical in industrial cities like Dearborn.
“Brownfield is a great incentive,” O’Reilly said. “Dearborn alone has done 11 projects already and we have some that
weren’t even Brownfield eligible. Reusing and rebuilding where we are, without having costs and infrastructure costs is the way to go. I’ve seen how wonderful it is.”
Southeast Michigan cities will use the 2012 grant to assess former automotive facilities in Monroe and Ypsilanti, the former McLouth Steel Products site in Trenton, a former engine manufacturing plant in Tecumseh and a former paper mill in Monroe, according to the press release.
(Sherri Kolade can be reached at [email protected])