Metro-East News

Congressmen announce EPA grant to identify ‘brownfields’ in Madison County

More than 30 abandoned gas stations and contaminated industrial sites will be identified for future cleanup with a grant announced Wednesday by three congressmen.

U.S. Reps. John Shimkus, Rodney Davis and Mike Bost joined Madison County Board Chairman Alan Dunstan and county’s community development director, Frank Miles, to announce a $400,000 grant from the U.S. EPA to identify brownfields in the rural areas of northern, eastern and southern Madison County.

Miles said the highly industrial areas around major factories had already received a lot of attention, but the smaller properties such as closed gas stations often slip through the cracks.

Dunstan said, “We’re trying to make Madison County a better place to live.”

One example, Dunstan said, was a gas station in Marine Township that has been closed for at least 30 years. “It’s an eyesore and something that needs to be handled,” he said.

Davis said the three Republican congressmen “don’t always have a lot of good things to say” about the EPA, but credited the agency for the work they were doing to remediate contaminated sites so they could be useful again.

Bost said today’s laws put restrictions on construction of gas stations and other facilities to protect the land from contamination, but the older properties are not only contaminated, but are off the tax rolls as derelicts.

“The biggest problem is they’re taken off the tax rolls, they’re not given the opportunity to be beneficial to the community,” Bost said.

Shimkus said he is committed to working toward the transformation of the area’s abandoned and contaminated properties into environmentally safe areas for redevelopment. "”of the sites we believe will be classified as brownfields are strategically located and are excellent sites for redevelopment,” he said.

The sites range from 80-acre industrial businesses to small abandoned gas stations. Half of the $400,000 grant must be dedicated to identifying at least 16 sites that contaminated the ground with heavy metals, creosote and other toxic chemicals, and the other half to identifying at least 16 sites that contaminated the ground with petroleum and petroleum byproducts.

“It is the combination of agriculture, industry and a strategic location that has made Madison County successful, and will serve as the basis for the future success of the county,” Davis said. “The cleanup of brownfields will only make the county more attractive for businesses looking to expand or relocate, and will lead to increased revenue and jobs.”

The three-year grant will be administered by Miles and the community development department. The money does not include actually remediating the contaminated sites, only identifying them. He said once they know the extent of the contaminated sites, they will begin seeking grants and loans for a program to remediate them for future redevelopment.

Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at edonald@bnd.com or 618-239-2507.

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