The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has chosen Palmetto’s Community Redevelopment Agency for a $200,000 brownfield cleanup grant to be applied toward property at 505 Fifth St. W., long known as the Edenfield property.
The 1.5 acres of pristine land along the Manatee River has been virtually useless due to its brownfield status. It once was the site of a CSX Railroad storage yard where creosote-soaked railroad ties were stored. Since acquiring the property in 2014 from the city, the CRA has been working toward assessing the hazards and planning the cleanup.
Cardno TBE is the environmental consultant doing the work and an assessment was completed last year that revealed signs of arsenic, a naturally occurring event, as well the presence of chemicals typical of a freight train storage yard.
Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant said the city will continue to work with Cardno, “to environmentally rehabilitate the Edenfield property. We are excited to partner once again with the EPA. This will give our Redevelopment Agency another prime location in which to work.”
CRA Director Jeff Burton said the grant requires a 20 percent match, which the CRA had already funded in anticipation of other grant opportunities.
“We want to see this property be made whole again, so it can be redeveloped,” said Burton. “We will begin working with our consultant immediately on a cleanup plan and then send it to the EPA for approval.”
EPA studies show that residential property values near cleaned up brownfield sites increase between 5-15 percent and values within a one-mile radius are likely to increase.
Cleanup will include the removal of any hazardous soils. The assessment did not reveal any contamination of ground water. Before a cleanup plan can be implemented, the city must first decide on potential future uses for the property because the future use will determine the depth of the cleanup.
Burton said there has been different suggestions from the city commission, but the CRA plan calls for public recreational use.
“It could be a recreational facility, a dog park or used for as a multi-modal transportation hub,” said Burton. “The level of cleanup will be determined by its use and that’s up to the city commission, but we’ll go with the uses in the CRA plan.”
The EPA estimates there are 450,000 abandoned and contaminated waste sites in America.
Burton said cleanup work could begin by the end of this year or the beginning of 2017. Either way, he said, the project is well ahead of schedule after predicting two years ago that it could be a five-year process. The EPA chose 218 brownfield projects this year totaling $55.2 million in 131 communities across the country.
“These grants will empower communities to transform idle, languishing lands into vibrant hubs for business, jobs and recreation,” said EPA administrator Gina McCarthy. “It’s all about providing that initial funding and sparking that first conversation to set stalled sites on a path toward smart, safe redevelopment that directly benefits communities.”