St. Louis receives $500,000 from the EPA to assess and clean vacant brownfield properties

Mayor Tishaura Jones speaks about a $500,000 grant aimed at cleaning up vacant buildings in the city alongside Nahuel Fefer, executive director of the Community Development Administration, and Meg McCollister, EPA Region 7 administrator, on Thursday at City Hall.

Chad Davis/SLPR

More than 10 neighborhoods in north St. Louis will see vacant lots assessed and cleaned up thanks to a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Mayor Tishaura Jones and St. Louis Community Development Administration leaders met with EPA leaders Thursday. The funding will go to the community development administration, which will administer the funds to assess and clean up Brownfield sites across 11 neighborhoods to reduce blight and environmental hazards.

“The short- and long-term impacts of this project will guide the transformation of vacant lots into productive spaces that spur economic growth and build community while making our neighborhoods safer and healthier,” Jones said.

Urban brownfield sites often contain hazardous materials such as asbestos or other chemical pollutants.

The grant money will go toward environmental site assessments where environmental professionals review public records of the site, inspect it and speak with previous owners or neighbors to learn its history.

If contamination is found, environmentalists will then identify the materials, sample the soil or groundwater and determine how far the contamination spread.

The grant also will go toward seven clean-up plans for properties on the city’s northern corridor, including Chouteau’s Landing and portions of the riverfront.

City leaders have used brownfield grants for numerous high-profile redevelopment projects, including the site of CityPark, the city’s soccer stadium, in 2019. EPA Region Seven Administrator Meg McCollister said brownfield redevelopment benefits those who live near the sites, boosting home values and keeping neighborhoods clean.

“Most importantly, grant-funded projects also include strategies to minimize displacement and ensure that the people most impacted by brownfields also benefit from the renewal,” McCollister said.

There are about 25,000 vacant homes, commercial buildings and land plots in the city, which has led different organizations to tackle the issue.

Legal Services of Eastern Missouri’s neighborhood vacancy initiative has worked with neighborhood associations to compel owners of abandoned properties to renovate the land or give them to neighborhood groups. The effort is aimed at attracting homeowners who will invest in the neighborhoods they live in.

Community Development Administration Executive Director Nahuel Fefer said about 10% of the projects its office oversees include environmental cleanup aimed at preventing contaminated materials from spreading.

“We cannot revitalize neighborhoods and transform the city’s thousands of vacant properties from liabilities into assets without cleaning up our historic brownfields,” Fefer said. “Similarly, disparate environmental impacts will persist until we eliminate racial wealth, health and educational gaps as is the goal of the economic justice action plan.”


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