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By KEVIN KOELLING
TELL CITY – A representative of the Indiana 15 Regional Planning Commission told the Perry County commissioners at their regular meeting Sept. 17 they would be asked to help in selecting consultants for a brownfields assessment.
Brownfields are properties – public or private – that may be left undeveloped or used because they’re suspected of being holding contaminants. Indiana 15’s Elliot Englert said in June $400,000 was available for the six counties his agency serves – Perry, Crawford, Dubois, Orange, Pike and Spencer. Of that amount, $146,900 is designated for petroleum-based contaminants such as oil and gas and $253,100 is targeted toward other hazardous substances such as lead paint and asbestos. The local funding was part of $62.5 million in grants for 240 recipients announced by the federal Environmental Protection Agency in a May 8 news release.
The $400,000 can be used to assess through historical reviews and other research the likelihood a site contains contaminants and for a second phase that include more-detailed soil assessments, Englert said. Sites are not examined under the funding for punitive purposes, but to get more properties back into productive use. Some can go untouched for years simply because people perceive them to be contaminated, Englert said.
Privately owned sites can’t be cleaned up with public funding, he noted, but their owners will know what they have to contend with.
He asked the commissioners to sign a memorandum of agreement that outlines “how we’re going to use the grant funds” and the roles and responsibilities of those who sign it. Commissioner Tom Hauser said county attorney Chris Goffinet had reviewed the memorandum. He also noted a similar grant was used in the region several years ago.
“We had one in 2008, a three-year grant,” Englert confirmed. “We assessed, I think, 16 different properties and over half of them have gone on to be cleaned up and are being utilized a lot better.” He wasn’t aware of any such success stories for Perry County, but said one former recycling-center site in Cannelton was assessed and found to be contaminant-free.
Indiana 15 will ask the commissioners to help with selection by February of environmental consultants who will assess properties, Englert said. “We also need a list of sites,” he said, “the more the better. We can prioritize them and figure out which ones would be more likely to be … eligible for cleanup grants.”
Such grants through the federal Environmental Protection Agency are available only for publically owned properties, so they would be given higher priority, he said.
The commissioners voted to approve the memorandum.
“I’ve already got a list compiled,” Hauser said. “I plan to meet with the mayors of cities with their lists, then as the process continues, we’ll come up with a list of priorities for our county.”
Englert said it would take approximately six months for all of the applications to be reviewed at the national level.