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June 8, 2017

Maine to receive $1.1M for cleaning up contaminated properties

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Wednesday it will award $1.1 million in supplemental funding for two Brownfields Revolving Loan Fund programs in Maine, allowing them to continue cleaning up contaminated properties so that they can be redeveloped.

The Kennebec Valley Council of Governments in Fairfield will receive $500,000 and the Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission in Saco will receive $600,000 in supplemental funds.

The revolving loan funds are intended to help communities reuse vacant and abandoned properties and turn them into community assets such as housing, recreation and open space, health facilities, social services, transportation options, infrastructure and commerce opportunities, according to an EPA news release.

Rosie Vanadestine, executive director of Kennebec Valley Council of Governments, which covers Kennebec, Somerset and western Waldo counties, said the revolving loan fund has helped fund several projects in the district:

  • Reuse of a once-contaminated schoolhouse as a food hub
  • Development of a disused tannery as a small manufacturing space
  • Creation of new medical building on the site of a contaminated and deserted steel manufacturing business
  • Creation of housing in a former hospital building.

Paul Schumacher, executive director of the Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission, said the fund will enable the district to continue clean-up efforts in communities throughout York and southern Oxford counties.

"To date the funding has resulted in 18 loan and grant awards for clean-up, accounting for 140 new jobs created, $52 million in leveraged private and public sector funds and 240 units of new housing," he said.

Pingree warns of funding cuts

In a separate news release, U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, welcomed the $1.1 million in EPA Brownfields grants for the two Maine organizations to provide low-interest loans for the cleanup and redevelopment of polluted sites, but cautioned that President Donald Trump's proposed budget calls for a 30% cut in the EPA's brownfields program.

"These grants are especially helpful in creating new economic activity and jobs here in Maine," she said. "While President Trump's budget proposal doesn't eliminate the program — as originally planned — it still makes damaging cuts that would mean fewer economic opportunities for our state in the future."

Pingree, a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and the Environment, which oversees funding for the EPA, said she planned to question EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt about the proposed cuts when he appears before the subcommittee next week.

Elsewhere in Maine, EPA RLF funds are being used to turn the Home Supply Center Warehouse site in Belfast, into a four-story, $4 million mixed-use redevelopment to include residential condominiums and commercial space. The project is located in the downtown commercial area and is expected to generate approximately 10 to 20 jobs.

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