City begins work to identify, rehab brownfields

The city is beginning work to breathe new life into abandoned properties in some of the city’s busiest areas.

Columbus officials announced last fall the city had received a $400,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to evaluate and renovate brownfield sites, which are properties that were previously used, but are now sitting empty.

The city’s community development department will host a meeting about the grant on Wednesday to talk with residents of the benefits of evaluating brownfield properties for future use.

The city is focusing specifically on brownfields in the downtown area and along the State Street corridor, said Mary Ferdon, executive director of administration and community development.

Some residents living in those sections of the city received letters inviting them to the meeting to learn how the grant could affect the area where they live, Ferdon said.

Brownfield properties could be redeveloped in the future, but the city must first assess them to ensure they are not contaminated with hazardous materials, such as asbestos and mold, or petroleum.

The grant money will be used to fund assessments of the identified properties. Community development is working with the Columbus-Bartholomew County Planning Department and BCA Environmental Consultants to identify and assess the brownfields, Ferdon said.

If an assessment shows a risk for contamination, soil and water samples will be taken from the sites to determine if there are hazardous materials on the property. Then, a mitigation and remediation plan will be created to determine if the property can be saved for future use.

In addition to providing information about the grant, the meeting will also give residents a chance to help the community development department identify potential brownfield sites. The meeting will be the first of six public information sessions about the brownfield grant process.

If you go

Brownfield sites meeting

  • When: 6 p.m. Wednesday
  • Where: Cal Brand Meeting Room of Columbus City Hall, 123 Washington St.
  • What: Information session about the brownfield grant, benefits to residents and community
  • Who: Open to the public, but will focus on residents living in the downtown area and along the State Street corridor
  • For more information: Contact the community development department at 812-376-2520

About the grant

The EPA Brownfield Assessment Program was created in 1995. Out of 450 applicants in 2015, 243 grants were awarded in 147 communities across the country. In Indiana, 10 grants were awarded in 2015. To receive the grant, the city submitted an initial application in December 2014 and was then asked to submit a work program in July 2015.

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Olivia Covington is a reporter for The Republic. She can be reached at ocovington@therepublic.com or 812-379-5712.