SOPA awarded $300,000 for brownfield cleanup

By Nikki Blankenship -

The Southern Ohio Port Authority (SOPA) has been selected for grant funding in the amount of $300,000 as part of a program offered through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in effort to cleanup former industrial sites.

Portsmouth was one of 172 communities to receive 279 grants totaling $56.8 million in EPA Brownfields funding through the EPA’s Assessment and Cleanup Grants. These funds provide aid to under-served and economically disadvantaged communities through the assessment and cleanup of abandoned industrial and commercial properties and expand the ability of communities to recycle vacant and abandoned properties for new, productive reuses.

“EPA is committed to working with communities to redevelop Brownfield sites which have plagued their neighborhoods. EPA’s Assessment and Cleanup grants target communities that are economically disadvantaged and include places where environmental cleanup and new jobs are most needed,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “These grants leverage considerable infrastructure and other investments, improving local economies and creating an environment where jobs can grow. I am very pleased the President’s budget recognizes the importance of these grants by providing continued funding for this important program.”

SOPA was selected to receive a $300,000 Brownfields Assessment Grant to focus its redevelopment efforts on Portsmouth’s oldest and most densely populated industrial area known as the Central Ohio River Terminal Corridor.

“This funding is strictly for doing projects, such as an updated brownfield (former industrial or commercial site) inventory, environmental Phase I and II assessments, and some remediation,” SOPA Executive Director Jason Kester stated. “There are no “admin fees” associated with the grant that can assist with funding the operations of the port authority. There is some funding to attend the Brownfield 2017 national conference in Pittsburgh (which we were already planning on attending thanks to our professional development funds from Fluor-BWXT).”

Kester added that SOPA has applied for this grant for three consecutive years as part of the redevelopment plan that was developed for the America’s Best Communities grant.

“We’re also working with some government programs to foreclose on, and demolish a number of abandoned gas stations in Portsmouth, and the Land Bank is working on blighted residential – all of these work together to help revitalize the community,” Kester added. “Our target area for this grant is the “East End” neighborhood around the former Dayton-Walther site.”

Property and Asset Manager Adam Phillips was primarily responsible for the application.

“We combined our prior applications, incorporated parts of the ABC plan, and received technical assistance from Hull & Associates, an environmental firm in Columbus and Tracy Shearer at the City of Portsmouth,” Kester added.

Brownfield cleanups have proven to be vital to community revitalization. According the the EPA, residential property values near brownfield sites that are cleaned up increase between five and 15 percent. This impact is found to be as reaching as 1.24-mile radius of the site. A study of areas surrounding 48 brownfields sites shows an estimated $29 million to $97 million in additional tax revenue was generated for local governments in a single year after cleanup. Benefits are as much as seven times the cost of cleanup.

“As of May 2017, more than 124,759 jobs and $24 billion of public and private funding have been leveraged as a result of assessment grants and other EPA brownfields grants,” an EPA release reported. “On average, $16.11 was leveraged for each EPA brownfields dollar and 8.5 jobs leveraged per $100,000 of EPA brownfields funds expended on assessment, cleanup, and revolving loan fund cooperative agreements.”

The grant award plays a significant role in both community and economic development of the region and comes as a result of tireless effort on the part of SOPA administration.

By Nikki Blankenship

Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.

Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.