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VTDigger: EPA Top Administrator Heralds Brownfield Cleanup Grants

May 21, 2016
In The News

By Morgan True

BURLINGTON — Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy stood atop an apartment building Friday in the the Old North End to highlight the benefits of federal grants to clean up contaminated sites.
McCarthy was joined on the roof deck of Maiden Lane apartments on North Winooski Avenue by federal, state and local officials to announce this year’s award of $55.2 million in brownfield remediation grants that will go to communities across the united states.

This year’s grant awardees include the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission and the Windham Regional Planning Commission, which will receive $400,000 each to make grants for environmental assessments of brownfields sites.

Developers and municipalities need to know what contaminants are in the ground in order to anticipate complications or take remediation steps before construction. A brownfield is a site where known contamination has occurred.

The mixed-use Maiden Lane development where McCarthy stood received $38,000 in Brownfield Assessment Grants to do initial soil testing on the site that used to be a Dairy Queen, but had fallen into disuse. In conjunction with additional support from Vermont’s revolving loan fund, that spurred development firm Redstone Group to invest $5 million in the project.

Congressman Peter Welch, D-Vt., praised the EPA brownfields program for helping to revitalize areas in the heart of U.S. cities, like the Old North End, that would otherwise suffer for lack of new development.

“It’s absolutely essential for our communities that we rebuild and not abandon, and the brownfield grants allow us to do that,” Welch said.

Welch and other Vermont officials praised McCarthy for being a solid partner on environmental issues, including the Lake Champlain cleanup efforts, and bemoaned her treatment at the hands of congressional Republicans.

McCarthy for her part, said it was great to be back in the Northeast, and praised Vermont for prioritizing environmental protection. McCarthy is a Boston native.

Asked by a reporter about the discrepancy between the recently announced EPA standard for the contaminant PFOA and the one set by Vermont, McCarthy heaped more praise on the Green Mountain State.

PFOA, or perfluorooctanoic acid, is a carcinogen discovered in in the water sources for hundreds of Vermont homes this year, and is being discovered in drinking water across the country. Earlier this week the EPA released a health advisory lifetime limit of 70 parts per trillion for PFOA, lower than the 20 parts per trillion adopted by the Vermont Department of Health in response the its discovery in the state.

“The difference reflects leadership on the state of Vermont. They didn’t wait around for EPA to take action, they took action themselves and they’re protecting their community,” McCarthy said.

“I applaud them for it,” she added.