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June 5, 2023

EPA announces $8.8M for CT brownfield cleanup efforts

Michael Puffer | Hartford Business Journal Mayor Neil O'Leary outside 835 South Main St. in Waterbury on Monday.

Local, state and federal officials gathered in Waterbury Monday morning to celebrate $8.8 million in brownfield cleanup funds for Connecticut.

Between the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Congress has authorized EPA to distribute more than $100 billion to “make our air clean, our water clean and to provide the economic development catalyst that’s so important in these kinds of cities and towns all across the country,” Region 1 EPA Administrator David W. Cash said Monday morning.

Cash spoke at a podium on the grounds of the long-shuttered and decaying Waterbury Companies brass-working site. A wing of this site caught fire and partially collapsed into the Mad River about a week prior, highlighting one of the dangers posed by Waterbury’s abundant brownfields. During Monday’s press conference, an excavator pulled fallen bricks and other debris from the river.

Waterbury is pushing hard to cross properties off its list of brownfields. The 12-year-administration of Mayor Neil O’Leary has succeeded in pulling in tens-of-millions of dollars in state and federal cleanup grants.

“Never would I have imagined I would be in the midst of a beehive of activity in the South End,” said State Rep. Geraldo Reyes, D-75th District. Reyes grew up in Waterbury’s South End and still lives in the area. O’Leary and others have said the South End has been long neglected, but several large-scale cleanups are underway there at present.

Waterbury was one of the big winners Monday, receiving a big novelty check made out for $1 million. Paired with $2 million granted by the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development earlier this year, the EPA funding is expected to be enough to finish cleanup on nearby sites surrounding the Brass City Harvest Food Hub, according to city officials.

That nonprofit provides food to low-income families. Its recently completed food hub acts as a sanitization center for area farmers, a market and a distribution center. Waterbury plans to help build out a retail market building and greenhouses on currently contaminated properties around the food hub. The cleanup is a necessary first step.

Speakers emphasized the need for continued investment in communities burdened by brownfields, in order to create opportunities. Several also focused on the magnitude of brownfields investment being pushed by lawmakers and President Biden.

“To quote President Biden on occasion: ‘This is a big frigging deal,’” quipped U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.

Other recipients include:

  • The Connecticut Metropolitan Council of Governments received $500,000 for brownfields assessment in Bridgeport and surrounding communities.
  • East Hampton received $500,000 for brownfields assessment, focused on its village center.
  • Killingly received $800,000 for brownfields assessment and cleanup in its “enterprise corridor zone.”
  • New London received $1 million for a brownfields revolving loan fund.
  • The Norwalk Redevelopment Agency received $2 million for brownfields cleanup, focused on a Webster Street lot.
  • The Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments -- which represents 19 municipalities, including Waterbury, Bristol and others – received $3 million for its brownfield revolving loan fund. 

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