LORAIN — Community leaders and federal officials came together Thursday afternoon at Black River Landing to announce a $600,000 grant for brownfield assessments in Lorain County.
It was the second time this year the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant was announced.
The first time the grant was made public was in a May 28 news release from the office of U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo, who was among the officials gathered in Lorain on Thursday.
Both this week and in May, Kaptur praised the grant, which will provide money for assessments of industrial areas across the county.
“This award is part of reclaiming our legacy and (will) strengthen the local economy,” Kaptur was quoted as saying in the May news release.
Lorain Mayor Chase Ritenauer, who spoke at Thursday’s event, said he wasn’t aware the grant had been announced previously. County Commissioner Ted Kalo said he knew about the grant, but that he was told the event, which he spoke at, was the official announcement.
Also on hand Thursday was Susan Hedman, the EPA’s administrator for the Great Lakes region.
“Today I’m here to announce that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is awarding a $600,000 grant to Lorain County for environmental assessments of brownfield sites so that those brownfields can be cleaned up and returned to productive use for the people who live in north central Ohio communities,” Hedman told the crowd of public officials and media.
She also praised Kaptur’s work as a member of the House Appropriations Committee, which oversees federal spending including dollars allocated to the EPA.
After the speeches, both Kaptur and Hedman acknowledged the grant had been announced before, but Hedman said the earlier announcement had gone largely unnoticed.
Hedman said Thursday’s event in Lorain was a chance to highlight the grant and for her to see the work that had been done on the Black River Landing site, which once was an industrial area.
Hedman said the grants are competitive and communities that receive them should be recognized for their efforts.
She said her stop in Lorain came after another event in Ashtabula where she announced the completion of cleanup work that will allow the Ashtabula River to be removed from a list of contaminated sites on the Great Lakes that are considered areas of concern by the United States and Canada.
The Ashtabula event featured an appearance by U.S. Rep. Dave Joyce, R-Russell Township, who represents the area, according to an EPA news release. Joyce, like Kaptur, is facing re-election this year.
Representatives for Kaptur said the EPA set up Thursday’s event and invited the congresswoman to come. Kaptur, whose heavily-Democratic district includes Lorain and other parts of Lorain County, will face Republican Richard May of Cleveland in November.
“We’re not in campaign mode,” Kaptur spokesman Steve Fought said. “We’re in save Lake Erie mode.”
Fought said Kaptur wanted to meet with Hedman to discuss ways to deal with the algae bloom that led Toledo officials to briefly ban residents from drinking the water over the summer, and the two discussed it after the close of the formal event.
“This has been on (the EPA’s) planning list for a couple weeks,” Fought said. “(Kaptur) wanted to make sure she was there to discuss the water crisis.”
The brownfield grants will be used to conduct 40 environmental assessments and devise four cleanup plans, according to a news release put out by the EPA on Thursday.
“EPA’s new grant will help remove uncertainty about the extent of contamination at brownfield sites, which is often the biggest barrier to redevelopment,” Hedman said in the release.
According to a summary of the project prepared by the county’s Community Development Department in May, the grant will allow officials to collect soil samples and gather site histories in addition to producing a countywide inventory and fund community engagement work.
High-priority sites were listed in Avon Lake, Lorain, North Ridgeville, Oberlin and Wellington as well as highly toxic methamphetamine labs that have been found throughout the county.
The county paperwork said that $450,000 of the money will be used to assess hazardous substances, while the remaining $150,000 will assess petroleum.