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EPA allocates $3.4M+ in grants to rehab, revitalize Puerto Rico communities

The funding aims to clean up brownfield sites and promote environmental justice. 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that five organizations — three municipalities and two nonprofits — have been selected to split more than $3.4 million to assess and clean up brownfield sites in Puerto Rico “while advancing environmental justice.”

The objective of these investments through EPA’s Brownfields programs is to transform polluted, vacant and abandoned properties into community assets, “creating good jobs and spurring economic revitalization in overburdened communities,” the agency stated.

The following organizations have been selected to receive EPA Brownfields funding:

Asociación de Residentes de La Margarita in Salinas has been awarded more than $401,000 to inventory, prioritize and assess sites in the La Margarita neighborhood. The funding will support nine initial assessments and up to 10 detailed assessments that include sampling. Funds also will be used to develop six cleanup and reuse plans and to engage the community. The La Margarita neighborhood includes a 7.9-acre former industrial site, a 6-acre former multifamily residential complex, a former supermarket, an abandoned residential property, and a former hospital.

The town of Barceloneta will receive $500,000 to inventory, prioritize and assess sites in the town’s Northern District. The funding will support up to 11 initial and detailed assessments, including sampling. Grant funds will also be used to develop up to 10 cleanup and reuse plans and to engage the community. Barceloneta’s Northern District includes an abandoned hardware store, a former hospital, a 10-acre vacant business incubator, a 4.7-acre former recreation center, and a 3.2-acre vacant clothing manufacturing building.

Fideicomiso Para el Desarrollo de Río Piedras has been selected to receive $1 million to inventory, prioritize, assess and clean up sites in the Río Piedras Urban Center. Funds will support 13 initial assessments and one detailed assessment that includes sampling. Grant funds also will be used to develop six cleanup plans, clean up the 2.6-acre La Milagrosa School site, and engage the community. The site is a former school facility that includes 14 buildings and is known to be contaminated. Other priority sites include a vacant former theater that sustained hurricane damage and a vacant lot adjacent to a residential neighborhood.

The town of Isabela has been selected to receive $500,000 to inventory, prioritize and assess sites in Isabela’s Central District. The funding will support 12 initial assessments and up to 11 detailed assessments that include sampling. Grant funds also will be used to develop up to 10 cleanup plans. Priority sites in Isabela’s Central District include a 5.7-acre former industrial site, a 7-acre former paper manufacturer, two former school buildings and a 14-acre vacant commercial site adjacent to a residential neighborhood.

The town of Naranjito has been selected to receive $1 million to conduct 11 initial assessments and 11 detailed assessments that include sampling of sites in Naranjito’s Mountain District. The funding will also support six cleanup plans and six remediation plans. Grant funds also will be used to clean up five of the priority sites and engage the community. Priority sites include a 0.6-acre former hospital, a 0.3-acre closed gas station located on the banks of the La Plata River, a 27- acre community that lacks proper infrastructure, and two vacant and deteriorating school buildings.

“Today marks a pivotal moment for Puerto Rico as we channel historic investment from the President’s Investing in America agenda towards the swift assessment and cleanup of sites that have burdened communities for far too long,” said EPA Deputy Administrator Janet McCabe.

“These funds, a significant portion of which stem from the historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, equip Puerto Rican communities with the resources to convert polluted lands into beacons of progress and optimism. It’s a commitment to not only revitalize these areas but to also foster a legacy of health, prosperity and environmental stewardship for generations to come,” said McCabe, who along with Regional Administrator Lisa F. Garcia announced the selections at the Río Piedras Farmers Market with local community leaders.

García said, “The Brownfields program is a powerful tool that helps communities in Puerto Rico address local inequities by providing a means to revitalize abandoned properties and promote environmental health, economic growth and job creation.”

“This new funding gives the program a huge shot in the arm — with a historic $1.5 billion that will be leveraged to make a real and lasting on-the-ground difference for communities across the country,” she added.

The Brownfields Program began in 1995, and the EPA says it has provided nearly $2.7 billion in Brownfield Grants to assess and clean up contaminated properties and return blighted properties to productive reuse.

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.
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