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Federal grants bring $1.7M to West Michigan brownfield sites

BY Thursday, May 07, 2020 05:07am

Calhoun County has received $1.1 million from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to support brownfield redevelopment projects in Battle Creek and Albion.

The funding announced today also includes $300,000 for environmental related activities on Harbor Island in Grand Haven and another $300,000 for a redevelopment project in Three Rivers.

“These communities are ready to move forward with redevelopment; they just lacked the funding to take that next step,” EPA Region 5 Administrator Kurt Thiede said in a statement. “EPA’s Brownfields grants help jump-start the process by providing support for assessments and cleanups.”

Economic development officials in Calhoun, Ottawa and St. Joseph counties say the EPA grants bring a welcomed level of certainty as the coronavirus pandemic has jeopardized the future of some projects.

The Calhoun County Land Bank Authority received $600,000 to conduct dozens of environmental site assessments, update a brownfield inventory, prepare at least four cleanup plans and perform community outreach. 

The site assessments will take place at a SEMCO site along the Dickman Road corridor in Battle Creek as well as the Gale Manufacturing Co. site in Albion.

Calhoun County received another $500,000 to clean up The Mound site in Battle Creek, which has been vacant since the early 1990s and historically had been used for waste disposal by rail lines and as a depository for excavated soil and fill materials. The site is contaminated with heavy metals, naphthalene and trichloroethylene (TCE).

“It has a lot of potential,” Calhoun County’ Community Development Director Jennifer Bomba said on a conference call today. “Once it’s remediated, we anticipate an expansion of light industrial uses.”

Ottawa County will also use the grants for environmental site assessments, updating its brownfield inventory and preparing two cleanup plans. The Grand Haven Board of Light and Power’s property on Harbor Island and a former auto sales and service property in Hudsonville will be the priorities.

The Grand Haven Board of Light and Power plans to retire its coal-fired power plant on Harbor Island later this year, repurposing the site with natural gas-powered generation and solar panels, said Ottawa County Economic Development Coordinator Becky Huttenga.

St. Joseph County officials will focus environmental assessments in downtown Three Rivers. The priority sites include a former hospital, a vacant appliance and furniture store and a former auto dealership.

Cathy Knapp, partner at Southwest Michigan First, said the $28 million mixed-use redevelopment project in downtown Three Rivers will include workforce and low-income housing.

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