Rhode Island awarded $1.3 million for brownfields cleanup

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has just awarded $1.3 million to several groups and municipalities throughout the state of Rhode Island to help them clean up brownfields sites and train people in the skills necessary to do the work.

The New England regional administrator of the EPA, Curt Spalding, visited Central Falls on August 20 to officially award the funding, which will be used on sites in Central Falls, Pawtucket, Providence, and Barrington.

One of the groups being given a grant, a nonprofit organization called Groundwork Providence, was given almost $200,000 just for job training. To date, the state of Rhode Island and organizations therein have been awarded almost $35 million through the federal brownfields program. The funding has helped assess and clean up a total of 253 polluted sites, and has created close to 900 jobs.

Mayor James Diossa of Central Falls says his city's sites are one of its "goldmines," adding that "we're not able to get them developed very quickly because of the remediation that they need, but through these funds we'll be able to accomplish that, which ties into economic development." Though they are only just being awarded now, the grants were all announced earlier this May.

Brownfields are typically low enough quality land that real estate investors shy away from them, making it difficult to get the ball rolling on development. Concentrated restoration efforts, however, can turn the quality of the land around and prepare them for development.

Local governments should work with environmental consultants to ensure that brownfields are being revitalized properly.