Feds award almost $1 million to local governments and a nonprofit for ‘brownfield’ work

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grants of $300,000 are going to the University Area Community Development Corp., Pinellas County and the city of Brooksville.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 4 Administrator Mary S. Walker speaks in Tampa during a news conference Wednesday morning about EPA “brownfield” grants. The event was held at the University Area Community Center Complex. [SAM OGOZALEK | Times]
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 4 Administrator Mary S. Walker speaks in Tampa during a news conference Wednesday morning about EPA “brownfield” grants. The event was held at the University Area Community Center Complex. [SAM OGOZALEK | Times]
Published June 12

TAMPA — A local nonprofit and two bay area governments are getting federal grants totaling nearly $1 million to clean up land that may be contaminated.

A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator announced the awards Wednesday in Tampa, saying the money will be used to assess whether abandoned or old “brownfield” properties are polluted by hazardous materials near the University of South Florida’s Tampa campus, in unincorporated Lealman and in the city of Brooksville.

“These grants help provide the change that can lead to broad community resurgence,” said Mary S. Walker, the agency’s Region 4 administrator, which oversees EPA operations in Florida and other southeastern states.

The EPA defines a “brownfield’’ as a property on which redevelopment or reuse may be complicated by real or perceived environmental contamination. A third of the EPA’s grant money is earmarked for the Tampa-based University Area Community Development Corp., a non-profit that supports low-income families living close to USF.

Mike Marshall, the non-profit’s director of real estate, said his organization wants to use part of the grant money to determine whether there are any environmental pollutants on 18 vacant parcels bought in recent years through its land-bank program.

“We need to find out what was on the property before. Because some of them were developed back in the early part of the 19th century and then abandoned,” Marshall said. “We need experts to come in and test the soil.”

The non-profit plans to redevelop those 18 parcels and get them back on active tax rolls, Marshall said.

The city of Brooksville and Pinellas County also are getting $300,000 in EPA grant money to assess whether several brownfield sites can be cleaned up for future redevelopment.

Brooksville City Manager Mark Kutney said the grant will be used to test brownfields along Broad Street and the site of an old hospital.

“There are a number of properties, like old service stations, that could have environmental contamination,” Kutney said.

Pinellas County plans to use the money to test parcels near 54th Avenue N in Lealman, an unincorporated area between St. Petersburg and Pinellas Park. Teri Hasbrouck, Pinellas County’s environmental program coordinator, said some of the parcels could hopefully be redeveloped as part of affordable housing projects or to build a grocery store, among other things.

The county hasn’t identified any contaminants at the Lealman sites as of now, Hasbrouck said.

“That’s what the assessment grant is for,” she said. “Sometimes (environmental clean up) is not needed, and people just think it might be contaminated. So it has a stigma attached to it and developers don’t want to touch it.”

Contact Sam Ogozalek at sogozalek@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3430. Follow @SamOgozalek.

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