The U.S. EPA has just announced that is is allocating an additional $16 million in funding for projects to reclaim brownfields, which are former industrial sites with varying degrees of contamination. The funds are targeted to brownfields projects that create new green jobs in nearby communities.
So far, the EPA’s brownfields/green jobs program has provided more than $96 million in revolving loans and grants to dozens of projects, which in turn has leveraged more than $2.5 billion in reclamation and redevelopment investments. The EPA estimates that the program has created almost 6500 new jobs relating to site remediation, construction, and redevelopment.
Reclaiming Brownfields for New Jobs
According to the EPA there are about 450,000 abandoned sites in the U.S. Some involve minimal contamination and can be cleaned for re-use, while others are so toxic that their future use is limited. The new round of funding focuses on the former category. These include a former factory in Connecticut that will house small businesses and artisans that create green products, a former mill in Maine that will be repurposed for urban housing and business development, a three-acre site in Indiana that is being redeveloped as a corporate campus, and a 38-acre factory in Illinois that will become a new industrial park.
Sustainable Energy from Brownfields
EPA also estimates that abandoned sites in the U.S. total up to about 14 million acres of land, some of which could be used as sites for generating solar, wind, and other renewable energy. This can includes sites that are heavily contaminated and are not suitable for human use. One recent example is the new Steelwinds wind energy farm in Lackawanna, PA on the shore of Lake Erie. It takes up part of a 30-acre site that was formerly a steel mill. When the mill closed in the 1970′s, the region lost thousands of jobs and was stuck with a blighted property unfit for most other uses. It’s another example of the economic boost that sustainable energy can provides to communities, both those in distress and those that already have a strong business base.
Image: Abandoned factory by Christopher Bauer on flickr.com.
Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.