State offering help with federal 'brownfield' grant

State offering help with federal 'brownfield' grant

DANVILLE — Officials with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency have extra money, and they'd like to spend it in Danville, according to city officials.

The state agency has offered, and the city of Danville would like to accept, some additional help in addressing properties around the city that could be ripe for development if suspected environmental problems are either eliminated or quantified for potential buyers.

Such properties are called "brownfields," and many, like former gas stations, for example, exist within the city.

To make more of these properties attractive to developers, the city two years ago got a federal brownfield grant that provides it with funding to identify such properties and do the necessary testing to either determine that environmental problems don't exist or exactly what the issues are and what it would take to fix them.

The IEPA has funding available for sampling and testing and has offered the city assistance with its brownfield program, said Chris Milliken, the city's planning and zoning manager. He said accepting the state assistance would mean the city's federal dollars could be stretched further, enabling it to address more brownfield properties.

As a result, administration officials have a written agreement between the IEPA and the city that they are asking the city council to consider for approval.

On Tuesday, the council's public services committee will consider the agreement, which Milliken said does not obligate any city funding.

The Danville City Council's public services committee meets at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the municipal building, 17 W. Main St., Danville.

The city was awarded the $400,000 U.S. EPA brownfield grant in summer 2011. At that time, the city initially identified more than 100 vacant or underused sites that may or may not contain hazardous substances, pollutants or contaminants. About 40 to 50 of those were former gas stations.

Milliken said it's a three-year grant, and the city is entering into its third year and has spent roughly half to two-thirds of the money. So far, 13 properties have gone through a phase-one assessment in the program, which is identifying the properties and determining what issues may exist. Six are in phase two, which entails testing water and soil samples to determine what, if any, pollutants exist.

With at least a third of the federal grant still unused, Milliken said, the list of 13 properties will grow. But with the state stepping in with some help, the city will be able to add a few more properties to the list.

"It won't double our number, but there will be more over the next year," he said.

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