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Published: Wednesday, 7/2/2003

EPA gives city $600,000 for brownfield cleanup

U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) announced the award of two federal grants yesterday that will help clean up a polluted field at the Warren Sherman Business Park on 14th Street between Southard and Woodruff avenues, and for the city to investigate others.

One grant worth $200,000 will pay for cleanup of the business park property, which then likely will become a parking lot, Miss Kaptur said. The other, worth $400,000, would go to the city to help it assess the extent to which other sites in the city are contaminated.

The grants were awarded through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

In reclaiming polluted land, “we really have made tremendous strides ... this is frosting on the cake,” she said at a news conference outside the city's workshop on South Byrne Road. “We need to keep rebuilding this community,” Miss Kaptur added.

She used the news conference to criticize companies that have come to the Toledo area to do business, leaving behind properties with environmental problems and no money to clean them up. When corporations come here, they want concessions from local governments, “yet they leave us with all these empty boxes surrounded by pollution,” she charged. “If they want a share of our market, they should leave us whole.”

Miss Kaptur did not name companies she believes are culprits.

Casey Stephens, manager of the city's Environmental Services Division, said about 75 sites have been identified as being polluted and need further investigation to determine the extent of the pollution. About 90 percent are privately owned.

Mr. Stephens said some owners may not want to participate in the assessment program because they fear government investigations may trigger costly cleanups for which they might have to pay. He said the city will attempt to negotiate agreements that limit or eliminate the owners' legal liability.

Toledo Mayor Jack Ford, also at the news conference, said forcing private property owners to pay for environmental clean-up on their land is hard because the problem may have been caused by an earlier owner or tenant, and “liability is difficult to assign.”

Miss Kaptur and city officials said they were unsure how far $400,000 will go toward investigating contaminated sites. Once problems are catalogued, other state and federal grants will be sought to help pay for clean-ups.

Only one project in Toledo - the old Acme power plant site on the east bank of the Maumee River - has won funding from the state for so-called “brownfield” cleanup. That award, announced last summer, was worth $6 million. Cleanup cost is expected to reach $15 million. The reclamation is expected to be a first step in building a $191 million entertainment and residential complex on the site.

Mr. Ford said there is only a “very modest amount” in the city budget for typical “brownfield” cleanups, calling such projects a “long-term, massive undertaking.”



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