Virginia receives a big boost in federal funds for brownfields work

The Fulton Gas Works site in Richmond, pictured in 2016, is among what officials estimate are...
The Fulton Gas Works site in Richmond, pictured in 2016, is among what officials estimate are thousands of brownfield sites in Virginia.(Scott Elmquist/Style Weekly)
Published: May. 19, 2022 at 8:34 AM EDT|Updated: May. 19, 2022 at 8:45 AM EDT
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Virginia has been awarded a record amount of federal dollars to lay the groundwork for the cleanup of contaminated or potentially contaminated sites known as brownfields in the cities of Emporia and Newport News and the towns of Appalachia and Blackstone.

This month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality $2 million in brownfields grants, the most of its kind ever received by DEQ, with an additional $3.5 million going to regional and local governments and authorities.

The $5.5 million in funding is the latest sign of increased investment in Virginia’s brownfields cleanup efforts, which may also see more infusions of cash as the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act prepares to funnel $1.5 billion toward such efforts over the next five years.

Most recently, federal brownfields funding amounted to $200 million annually through 2023, said Chelsea Barnes, legislative director of the environmental and economic development group Appalachian Voices. With the $1.5 billion earmark, “we will definitely see an increase in the funding levels Virginia receives,” she said.

Those monies will be in addition to roughly $22 million Virginia is slated to receive for the rehabilitation of abandoned mine lands. Altogether, said Virginia Department of Energy Economic Development Manager Daniel Kestner, the state expects to “eliminate a record number of potential safety hazards and increase environmental benefits.”

Brownfields are defined as properties whose “expansion, redevelopment, or reuse … may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant or contaminant.” They can encompass everything from former industrial sites to railyards to dry cleaners to gas stations.

Both the federal government and Virginia operate their own programs to restore and redevelop such sites.

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.(Virginia Mercury)

The Virginia Mercury is a nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.

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