Washington, D.C. – Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva today congratulated the City of Tucson and Pima County for each receiving $400,000 from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to perform community-wide assessments of potential brownfields areas. Brownfields are environmentally contaminated sites that can be remediated and reused for commercial, industrial or residential property.
The city and county each received two $200,000 grants to determine whether certain locations qualify as brownfields. Tucson city officials will conduct a thorough examination of the downtown area to inventory and catalogue potential brownfield zones, while Pima County will focus on the towns of Ajo, Why and Lukeville. Together, the grants will fund assessments of the risks to redevelopment posed by petroleum and hazardous substance contamination in each survey area.
“Cleaning up and reinvesting in these properties protects the environment, reduces blight and takes development pressure off more pristine areas,” Grijalva said. “We need to know what opportunities exist on land that isn’t being put to good use, and these funds will allow us to do that.”
For Tucson, the downtown assessment is timely because a large portion of the area has been designated a federal Empowerment Zone. According to EPA information, a disproportionate number of the estimated 5,200 brownfields in Tucson – including former gas stations, dry cleaners, abandoned industrial and manufacturing facilities, and other vacant structures – lie in the downtown area. Because Tucson is one of the largest cities in the country that obtains its drinking water from groundwater supplies, the existence of so many unremediated brownfields threatens residential drinking water quality. The environmental assessment will help the city implement redevelopment plans in the area, increasing both environmental quality and economic activity.
“Urban renewal is a complex process that has to include environmental planning,” Grijalva said of the surveys. “This is the first step on a necessary journey to a better, cleaner Tucson and Pima County. I applaud city and county officials for pursuing these grants, and I intend to watch the results of the assessments closely.”
The money for both projects comes through EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response.