published Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

EPA grant to help assess potentially hazardous sites

Southeast Tennessee counties will get some federal help in assessing the condition of dozens of potentially hazardous abandoned gas stations and other underground storage tanks.

But the $250,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency over the next three years won't be enough to pay for the required environmental reviews of 43 suspected sites in the region, let alone pay for any actual cleanup of the abandoned properties, county leaders said Tuesday.

"We hope in the future that there will be more EPA money because obviously this will not be enough," Grundy County Mayor LaDue Bouldin, chairman of the Southeast Tennessee Municipal Solid Waste Planning Region Board, said Tuesday.

Since 2006, EPA has given $2.6 million in grants and loans for the assessment and cleanup of brownfield sites in Chattanooga's Southside and downtown areas, according to Yuen Lee, director of information and research for the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency. The newest

PDF: List of potential Brownfield sites in Southeast Tennessee

Petroleum sites for brownfield aid

In the 10-county Southeast Tennessee Development District, 43 sites are abandoned gas stations or other facilities suspected to be petroleum brownfields.

* Hamilton County, nine sites

* McMinn County, seven sites

* Marion County, seven sites

* Meigs County, five sites

* Bradley County, four sites

* Grundy County, four sites

* Rhea County, three sites

* Bledsoe County, two sites

* Sequatchie and Polk counties, one site each

Source: Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation

EPA grant is the first for the region.

The Southeast Tennessee Development District requested $1 million from the EPA to assess any type of polluted site that might constitute a brownfield. But EPA awarded only $250,000 for petroleum-contaminated sites for the 10 counties included in the district.

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation has identified 43 abandoned service stations and other properties with underground tanks that might be contaminated with petroleum products in Southeast Tennessee.

"Mainly what we've looked at are ground storage tanks," said Gary Sexton, a planner for the Southeast Tennessee Development District. "The primary thing we have to look at is if the current or previous owner has enough viable assets for recovery."

EPA brownfield grants are good only for abandoned sites without responsible owners, including many properties acquired by local governments through back-tax sales, Mr. Sexton said.

Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield said the city has more than 100 identified brownfield sites "that are both a challenge and an opportunity."

"In any city, there are going to be a lot of brownfields," Mr. Littlefield said. "But as we have shown at the Renaissance Park (located on the Tennessee River on Chattanooga's North Shore), the downtown EPB building and other brownfield sites, we can reclaim these properties into valuable assets this area."

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