BROOKSVILLE — About a dozen city residents and business owners listened Monday evening as the Environmental Protection Agency outlined the scope of a $400,000 Brownfields assessment grant that will be used to identify and assess troubled properties, with the goal of making many of them developmentally viable once again.
The meeting was the first step in establishing a community redevelopment task force that will work with the Brownfields program team to help build an inventory of properties and to ensure that the community has a say about which properties should be targeted for investigation of possible underground contaminants.
"The community's input is very vital to the success of the program," said Brian Kvam, project manager for the EPA's Southeast Brownfields program. "Not only does it help us to identify properties in need of remedial help; it gives us an idea of where any money will be best spent."
While the grant does not pay for any cleanup costs, it will cover the expense of investigating and sampling of properties deemed valuable to future development in the city. The grant includes $200,000 for the assessment of hazardous substances and another $200,000 to investigate properties thought to be contaminated by petroleum products.
According to Kvam, the assessment will be done in two phases, the first of which will be to create a broad list of sites where certain industrial and agriculture activities once took place, including cattle dipping vats, scrap metal salvage yards, dry cleaners, and car and boat repair shops.
Project consultants will then begin to pare the list down to include sites where there is strong evidence that contaminants might still remain.
The second phase of the assessment will include a thorough search of the identified properties for evidence of activities that might have caused contamination. Soil and water samples will be collected.
EPA representative Kathleen Curry said that the focus of Brownfields assessments is limited to properties that are considered eligible for reuse in developable areas of the city. Such determinations, she said, will be made through criteria established by the EPA.
"It's not for someone who just wants to sell the property for a profit," Curry said. "There has to be some value there that will enhance the economic viability of the city and will produce jobs in the community."
Brooksville community development director Bill Geiger said he was pleased to see a turnout of city residents eager to take part in the task force, and hopes to add to the ranks as time goes along.
"Getting as many citizens as possible involved is vital to making the assessment project work," Geiger said. "In time, we'll have a good idea of where any federal or state environmental cleanup funds can be put to good use."
The next meeting of the Brooksville Brownfields Task Force will be at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 26 at Coney Island Drive Inn, 1112 E Jefferson St., Brooksville.
For information about the task force, call (352) 540-3815.
Logan Neill can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1435.