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Bipartisan infrastructure dollars coming to Michigan to start cleanup of brownfield sites

Brownfield sites can be abandoned buildings or an abandoned site that are contaminated or perceived to be contaminated.
Lester Graham
Michigan Radio
Brownfield sites can be abandoned buildings or an abandoned site that are contaminated or perceived to be contaminated.

Michigan is getting some more money to clean up polluted sites. In addition to the $1.8 million from the current year’s appropriation, the federal government is adding approximately $2.25 million from the Bipartisan Infrastructure, Investment, and Jobs Act.

Four million dollars is not a lot of money to clean up all the so-called brownfield sites. But it does kick start the process. It will pay for site environmental assessments to determine what needs to be done for more than 170 placess in the state.

“Our environmental assessment funds can also be used to do infrastructure reuse studies, clean up and redevelopment plans. So it's not just gathering environmental data. It's really coming up with a plan for how to reuse that property,” said Keary Cragan, an environmental engineer with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Properties can be brownfield sites whether they’re contaminated or just perceived to be contaminated.

“Oftentimes, an abandoned building or abandoned site may have rumors that it is contaminated and it's not, and others may look perfectly pristine and actually have contamination issues,” Cragan explained.

Spending money on an assessment that finds there’s no contamination can be a relatively cheap way to put a questionable property back into service.

The EPA states there’s a return on investment of more than $20 for every federal dollar invested in cleaning up a brownfield site.

“Those environmental site assessments help bring those sites to cleanup, get them back on the state tax rolls and local tax rolls and redeveloped into whatever that community needs, whether it’s housing or green space or new businesses,” Cragan aid.

The Biden administration said in a release that approximately 86 percent of the communities selected to receive funding across the nation "have proposed projects in historically underserved areas."

In Michigan, the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy will get half of the total to conduct 110 environmental site assessments and other work.

The rest of the money will go to several communities, including the cities of Jackson, Douglas, the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce Foundation, and the counties of Leelanau and Oceana for a variety of pollution cleanup and restoration.

The additional money for brownfields this year is the first of five years of added funding to clean up brownfield sites.

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Public from 1998-2010.
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