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EPA awards funds to help brownfield cleanups

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded $1.6 million on Thursday in Connecticut to help clean up abandoned and contaminated properties, known as brownfields.

EPA officials and politicians gathered in Bridgeport in front of the broken windows, piles of debris, and collapsed ceilings of a metal plating shop that’s been abandoned for 13 years.  Deb Szaro of the EPA announced the city, which now owns the site, was awarded $200,000 to help clean it up, as well as $300,000 to provide loans for other cleanups. The EPA is also giving $900,000 for additional loans in the Bridgeport area. And Szaro said neighboring Stratford is getting EPA money to help remove hazardous waste at an old coal and heating oil storage site.

“So it’s a whole big package that works together to make sure that cities and towns can get their brownfield sites cleaned, redeveloped and back into productive use,” Szaro said.

Credit Craig LeMoult
U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal speaks at the Progressive Plating site in Bridgeport

The new federal funding won’t come close to solving the brownfields problem in Connecticut. There are as many as thousands of properties in the state that can’t currently be redeveloped because of contamination.

Click here for a map of state and municipally owned brownfield sites in Connecticut (note that many brownfields are privately owned). Click here for a 2011 WSHU feature on brownfields, with an interactive map of more sites.

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal called this is a down payment on a larger amount that needs to be invested. But he said in Washington, the EPA is under attack from lawmakers who would cut its funding.

“There’s no magic solution to cleaning up arsenic, petroleum, sludge, cyanide, and there’s no magic solution to making Washington work," said Blumenthal. "And the dysfunction, partisan paralysis, the ideological bitterness is reflected in the fight to get funding for EPA programs that work.”

Connecticut is also taking steps to remediate abandoned and contaminated properties. The state is currently reviewing applications for a cut of the $20 million Governor Dannel Malloy included in the current budget for brownfields. So far, they’ve gotten 41 applications, seeking a total of $75 million.

Craig produces sound-rich features and breaking news coverage for WGBH News in Boston. His features have run nationally on NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Weekend Edition, as well as on PRI's The World and Marketplace. Craig has won a number of national and regional awards for his reporting, including two national Edward R. Murrow awards in 2015, the national Society of Professional Journalists Sigma Delta Chi award feature reporting in 2011, first place awards in 2012 and 2009 from the national Public Radio News Directors Inc. and second place in 2007 from the national Society of Environmental Journalists. Craig is a graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and Tufts University.
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