Brattleboro, Bellows Falls and Bennington will share $700,000 in Environmental Protection Agency cleanup funding to redevelop former industrial properties.
The EPA Brownfields Program supports the first stages of hazardous cleanup on former industrial sites. EPA Regional Administrator Deb Szaro awarded the federal grants to the three Vermont communities Thursday in Bellows Falls, alongside representatives from Vermont's congressional delegation.
The Bennington County Regional Commission will use its $300,000 for up to seven projects, while the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center got $200,000 to begin development on a new downtown property the museum recently purchased.
Emmett Dunbar, executive director of the Bellows Falls Area Development Corporation, says the group's $200,000 EPA grant will help clean up a former paper mill property, which the village hopes to sell to a developer.
"This project is very important to the town because the property will go from an economic, environmental and public safety liability to being an asset," Dunbar said. "There are fewer and fewer industrial zones in Vermont and this project creates an opportunity for a new structure to exist within the industrial zone."
Szaro said the Brownfields grants help make properties more appealing to developers.
"This is the first step in a long process," Szaro said. "A lot of properties in New England can't be cleaned up because people are afraid of the contamination that might be on the land. These grants can be a spark to get projects moving."
The three grants that were awarded to the Vermont communities Thursday were among 172 given out across the country in a competitive process.