The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that the town of Toa Alta was selected to receive $300,000 to assess and clean up contaminated properties under the agency’s Brownfields Program.
The Municipality of Toa Alta will use the grant to target the 35-acre former Industrial Zone, including four vacant and hurricane-damaged former industrial sites and a vacant gas station.
Grant funds will be used to inventory and identify sites for assessment, to assess sites for hazardous substances, to complete cleanup and reuse plans, and to carry out community outreach activities, the EPA confirmed.
EPA Regional Administrator Pete Lopez announced the grant with Toa Alta Mayor Clemente “Chito” Agosto-Lugardo and Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioner in Washington, Jenniffer González.
“The EPA Brownfields program has helped Puerto Rico’s communities by transforming once-vacant properties into beacons of hope, especially for many economically disadvantaged neighborhoods,” said Lopez.
“Vacant or contaminated land may not feel or look like a community asset waiting to happen, but with the right knowledge, skills, vision and investment, these properties offer local governments and neighborhoods some of the best opportunities to transform their futures,” he said.
“Through the Brownfields program, we can reverse blight and replace it with regeneration — and with even one property’s reuse, we can spur community-wide revitalization,” Lopez added.
Puerto Rico has many vacant locations and facilities that have been “impacted by contamination and that may represent a potential threat to the health and safety of their nearby communities,” González said.
The EPA’s Brownfields program assesses cleanup hazards in the area transforming the threat into an attractive opportunity, she said.
The assigned funds will be used for the cleanup of a contaminated site in Toa Alta and other projects in process, such as plans to address the capacity limits in the landfills.
“The cleanup of this area will provide the appropriate conditions to allow for redevelopment and beneficial use of these locations, designated as an Opportunity Zone, a denomination that through our support we managed to integrate Puerto Rico, where tax incentives are offered to companies for their installation turning into a contribution to the economic development of that community,” González said.
Toa Alta landed the EPA Brownfields Assessment and Cleanup Grant through a proposal submitted to the federal agency, Agosto-Lugardo confirmed.
“This grant will be used to assess properties located in the industrial zone that are in total neglect and deterioration, putting our citizens at risk. Therefore, tests and assessments of environmental pollutants at these buildings, to assure safety, must be carried out,” the municipal official said.
“These assessments will help the municipality to have better planning for future projects that we want to implement in that area,” Agosto-Lugardo said.