EPA Announces $300,000 Brownfields Grant for Toa Alta, Puerto Rico

News Releases from Region 02

05/06/2020

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NEW YORK – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is announcing that Toa Alta, Puerto Rico was selected to receive $300,000 to assess and clean up contaminated properties under the agency’s Brownfields Program. Under President Trump’s Administration, EPA has delivered approximately $287 million in Brownfield grants directly to communities and nonprofits for cleanup and redevelopment, job creation, and economic development through the award of over 948 grants. EPA Regional Administrator Pete Lopez announced the grant with Toa Alta Mayor Clemente “Chito” Agosto and Congresswoman Jenniffer González Colón.

“The EPA Brownfields program has helped Puerto Rico’s communities by transforming once-vacant properties into beacons of hope, especially for many economically disadvantaged neighborhoods,” said EPA Regional Administrator Pete Lopez. “Vacant or contaminated land may not feel or look like a community asset waiting to happen, but with the right knowledge, skills, vision and investment, these properties offer local governments and neighborhoods some of the best opportunities to transform their futures. Through the Brownfields program, we can reverse blight and replace it with regeneration— and with even one property’s reuse, we can spur community-wide revitalization.”

"Puerto Rico has many premises and facilities that are currently not being used that have been impacted by contamination and that may represent a potential threat to the health and safety of their nearby communities. EPA's Brownfields program assesses and cleanup hazards in the area transforming the threat into an attractive opportunity. In recent dialogue and collaborative efforts with EPA to advance the interests of the island, we have achieved this new allocation of $ 300,000 in federal funds for the cleanup a contaminated site in Toa Alta and other projects in process, such as plans to address the capacity limits in the landfills. The cleanup of this area will provide the appropriate conditions to allow for redevelopment and beneficial use of these locations, designated as an Opportunity Zone, a denomination that through our support we managed to integrate Puerto Rico, where tax incentives are offered to companies for their installation turning into a contribution to the economic development of that community. I want to thank the EPA regional administrator, Pete López, his staff, and the mayor of Toa Alta, Clemente Agosto, for their constant collaboration and commitment to this matter, ” said Puerto Rico Congresswoman Jenniffer González Colón.

“The Municipality of Toa Alta is filled with great joy and satisfaction to obtain this economic allocation from the EPA Brownfields Assessment and Cleanup Grant program. This was achieved after submitting a proposal by the directors of Federal Programs and Planning of the municipality at the time, Antonio Pérez and Luis González. Our thanks go out to them for all their effort and work to get this grant approved for Toa Alta, after competing with proposals from all the United States.  We also want to thank EPA for all their collaboration in this process. This grant will be used to assess properties located in the industrial zone that are in total neglect and deterioration, putting our citizens at risk. Therefore, tests and assessments of environmental pollutants at these buildings, to assure safety, must be carried out.  These assessments will help the Municipality have better planning for future projects that we want to implement in that area,” highlighted Honorable Clemente “Chito” Agosto Lugardo, Mayor of the Municipality of Toa Alta.

Nationwide, this year, the agency is announcing the selection of 155 grants for communities and tribes totaling over $65.6 million in EPA brownfields funding the agency’s Assessment, Revolving Loan Fund, and Cleanup Grant Programs. These funds will aid under-served and economically disadvantaged communities, including neighborhoods located in Opportunity Zones, in assessing and cleaning up abandoned industrial and commercial properties. An Opportunity Zone is an economically-distressed community where new investment, under certain conditions, may be eligible for preferential tax treatment. Of the 151 total communities selected, 118 of these communities can potentially assess or clean up brownfield sites in census tracts designated in these zones. In addition, nearly 30% of the communities selected today will receive brownfields funding for the first time.

The Municipality of Toa Alta will use the grant to target the 35-acre former Industrial Zone, including four vacant and hurricane-damaged former industrial sites and a vacant gas station. Grant funds will be used to inventory and identify sites for assessment, to assess sites for hazardous substances, to complete cleanup and reuse plans, and to carry out community outreach activities.

Grants awarded by EPA’s Brownfields Program provide communities across the country with an opportunity to transform contaminated sites into community assets that attract jobs and achieve broader economic development outcomes, while taking advantage of existing infrastructure. For example, brownfields grants are shown to:

  • Increase Local Tax Revenue: A study of 48 brownfields sites found that an estimated $29 million to $97 million in additional local tax revenue was generated in a single year after cleanup. This is two to seven times more than the $12.4 million EPA contributed to the cleanup of these sites.
  • Increase Residential Property Values: Another study found that property values of homes near revitalized brownfields sites increased between 5% and 15% following cleanup.

    Background

    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 United States.  EPA’s Brownfields Program began in 1995 and has provided nearly $1.6 billion in brownfield grants to assess and clean up contaminated properties and return blighted properties to productive reuse. To date, brownfields investments have leveraged more than $31 billion in cleanup and redevelopment. Over the years, the relatively small investment of federal funding, from both public and private sources, leveraged more than 160,000 jobs.

    The next National Brownfields Training Conference will be held on April 26-30, 2021, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Offered every two years, this conference is the largest gathering of stakeholders focused on cleaning up and reusing former commercial and industrial properties. EPA co-sponsors this event with the International City/County Management Association.

    For more on the brownfields grants: https://www.epa.gov/brownfields/types-brownfields-grant-funding

    For more on EPA’s Brownfields Program: https://www.epa.gov/brownfields

    For more information about EPA’s role in Opportunity Zones: https://www.epa.gov/opportunity-zones

    For information on the studies related to the Brownfields Program’s environmental and economic benefits: https://www.epa.gov/brownfields/brownfields-program-environmental-and-economic-benefits

    Follow EPA Region 2 on Twitter and visit our Facebook page.

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