Session to discuss brownfield assessment grants

A new federal grant program that will help owners, developers and those in real estate identify environmental problems on property is being rolled out this weekend.

City officials will discuss funding availability from a $400,000 brownfield assessment grant at a meeting at 9 a.m. Saturday in the basement of Blackerby’s Hangar 5 restaurant at the Columbus Municipal Airport.

The grant, awarded through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, will offer information about how the city may use the grant received in 2015 to pay for assessment of local properties that could be contaminated by hazardous materials.

Robin Hilber, community development programs coordinator for the city, said the sites are defined as being underutilized or abandoned properties in which future development is complicated by the perception or presence of environmental contaminants. The grant can only be used in two designated areas — downtown Columbus and the State Street corridor — to help pay for the development of a remediation plan at sites where contamination is found, Hilber added.

However, the grant cannot be used for cleanup at sites where contamination is found. The city has used a portion of the funding to determine whether contaminants exist at four properties in Columbus and to also identify what contaminants possibly exist at those locations, Hilber said.

Brownfield sites can include land or buildings that contain asbestos, mold or other pollutants. They can be former industrial and commercial sites such as gas stations, dry cleaning facilities, grain elevators and landfills, Hilber said.

One advantage to this grant program is that if an assessment finds contamination, it allows for researching to find the previous owners who might be liable for the contamination, Hilber said.

If contamination is found, an insurance archeology study can be performed to track down the insurance carrier for a former company that previously existed at the site, she said. That insurance company would then be responsible for paying the costs tied to cleaning up the site, Hilber said.

In addition, Hilber said that most lending institutions, loan servicing companies and purchasers require this type of assessment before lending money to purchase a property.

Since it is a grant program, there is no charge to property owners for an assessment, which helps makes a property more marketable, she said.

“It increases the value of the property and the status of the property in the eyes of the city,” Hilber said.

If you go

What: City meeting about a federal brownfield assessment grant awarded to the city to assess possible contaminated sites locally.

When: 9 a.m. Saturday

Where: Blackerby’s Hangar 5 restaurant at Columbus Municipal Airport, 4770 Ray Boll Boulevard

How much: Free

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Matt Kent is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at 812-379-5712 or mkent@therepublic.com