City Gets $200K to Identify Brownfield Petroleum Sites

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The fourth time proved to be the charm, proponents of a $200,000 brownfield assessment grant said after learning the city’s application for the funds has been approved.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Wednesday that it has awarded the assessment grant to the city, which had unsuccessfully applied for the funds three times before.

The city will use the $200,000 to fund an updated inventory of petroleum brownfields, set priorities for brownfield sites, conduct at least 24 Phase I and about 16 Phase II environmental site assessments, and prepare cleanup plans for up to three high-priority sites, according to state documents.

Youngstown was among 172 communities and organizations nationwide that were awarded brownfield grant funds yesterday.

“These grants leverage considerable infrastructure and other investments, improving local economies and creating an environment where jobs can grow,” U.S. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said in announcing the grants.

Work in Youngstown will focus on former gas stations, car dealerships and dry cleaners – along the city’s main corridors, Mayor John McNally said.

“We know there are probably four or five different sites on Glenwood Avenue,” he said. “On every major corridor, there are several sites that need to be cleaned up.”

Three years ago, Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp. conducted a citywide survey of “every possible site” that could have an underground storage tank and identified more than 300, reported Ian Beniston, YNDC executive director.

“We need to get these sites cleaned up if we’re going to attract economic development and investment to these neighborhoods,” Beniston remarked. “We have to have land that’s assembled but we also need to have land that’s cleaned.”

The impetus for the project came several years ago when YNDC discovered an unmapped underground storage tank in an area where it planned to put a playground, said Sarah Lown, public finance manager for the Northeast Ohio Development and Finance Authority, a division of the Western Reserve Port Authority.

“That gave them the idea that there may be more unmapped tanks in the city,” she said.

The finance authority was among the agencies that supported the city’s application. Lown, who has specialized in brownfield projects, said it would continue to offer technical support to complete the work.

According to the EPA news release, property values near brownfield sites that are cleaned up increased between 5% and 15%, and can increase property values within a 1.24-mile radius of the site.

In addition to the city, YNDC and WRPA, partners and supporters of the grant application include Eastgate Regional Council of Governments, Youngstown State University’s Regional Economic Development Initiative, Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber, Idora Neighborhood Association, Rocky Ridge Neighborhood Association and Mahoning County Land Bank.

“This is a highly competitive grant program, particularly in [EPA] Region 5 because there are so many cities that have need of it,” YNDC’s Beniston said.

Bill D’Avignon, deputy director of planning and strategic development, worked with YNDC to tweak the city’s application, he said.

Once the assessments are complete, the city can apply for state funds to remove any tanks and remediate the sites, McNally said.

“I’m not sure how long it will take to get things moving but we will be moving quickly,” he said.

Completing the assessments likely will take a couple of years, Beniston said.

“We’ll do whatever the city needs and wants us to do,” he said. “Obviously, this is something we view as important.”

Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.