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Niagara County receives $3.9 million from EPA to address brownfield sites

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Remington Lofts

The Remington Lofts on Sweeney Street in North Tonawanda is one former brownfield site that was redeveloped using EPA grants.

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Niagara County will receive $3.9 million from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to clean and redevelop brownfields, EPA Regional Administrator Lisa F. Garcia said Monday.

There are several hundred brownfield sites in Niagara County. With the EPA grant, the Niagara County Brownfields Program plans to partner with the state Department of Environmental Conservation to target contaminated tax delinquent properties by taking temporary ownership of them, Niagara County officials said.

Niagara County has previously used grants from the EPA to address brownfield sites through its Niagara County Brownfields Program, which provides loans and grants for site cleanups. The county plans to use the $3.9 million grant continue that work, according to Amy Fisk, brownfield program manager for the Niagara County Center for Economic Development.

The EPA selected Niagara County for the revolving loan fund grant, and the $3.9 million is the largest amount awarded in New York State, Garcia said during a press conference at Riviera Theatre in North Tonawanda.

"With this grant, Niagara County will continue their work to clean up and redevelop contaminated brownfield properties," Garcia said. "Brownfield sites, you bring them to greenfield sites, and then, you can reuse them how the community and the county would like, so we're really excited about it."

The infrastructure bill that Congress enacted late last year provided the EPA $1.5 billion, with a portion designated to its brownfields program. This year, over 200 communities shared $250 million worth of the program's grants. Twelve of the grants were awarded in New York State totaling $10.5 million.

Including past grants, Niagara County has received over $9.5 million from the EPA, with $2.3 million for brownfields.

Brownfields are properties that have been contaminated by hazardous substances and pollutants.

The EPA has helped leverage millions of dollars in private investment dollars across the country through its brownfields grants, said Rep. Brian Higgins.

Higgins said he expects the same impact in Niagara County.

"For every dollar that goes into brownfield redevelopment, you leverage about $20 in private sector investment," Higgins said. "This is an investment into the health and safety of our communities."

Many brownfield sites in Niagara County are remnants of Western New York's history as an industrial economy.

"The reality is this was an industrial county. That was the lifeblood. That was the economy for so long, and I don't want to apologize for that," said State Senator Robert Ortt. "But we know now when those projects left, they left a legacy behind that needs to be addressed."

The site of Monday's news conference is an example of how a federal grant helped clean a property that led to development. An auto repair shop contaminated with petroleum and asbestos once was located behind the theater. In 2014, a $350,000 grant allowed the historic theatre to clean the site before constructing an expansion.

The apartment complex Remington Lofts and Buffalo Bolt Business Park are also former brownfield sites in North Tonawanda that were redeveloped using EPA grants.

"Fifteen years ago, North Tonawanda was a different place," Ortt said. "Because of programs and dollars like what we're recognizing here today, North Tonawanda has seen a rebirth, renaissance just like Buffalo has and a lot of Western New York.”

Municipalities and developers interested in applying for loans and grants can go to https://www.niagaracountybusiness.com/brownfields for more information.

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Intern Reporter

I am from Jackson, Mississippi and a sophomore at Xavier University of Louisiana studying Mass Communication with a concentration in multimedia. I also am studying Political Science as a minor.

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