Aiken awarded $300,000 EPA grant to study contaminated properties

Sep. 22—The city of Aiken has secured a $300,000 brownfield assessment grant from the Environmental Protection Agency, similar to the one it was awarded in 2018.

The federal money, which does not require a local-level match, can be used to study and develop cleanup plans for contaminated properties, like the Jackson Petroleum site, in the city's downtown and Northside districts.

"This grant provides $300,000 for hazardous material and petroleum assessment projects and will continue work" from previous years, Joy Lester, a capital projects sales tax administrator, wrote in a memo to City Manager Stuart Bedenbaugh.

The grant and its applications dovetail with the city's pursuit of a rejuvenated parkway district: Beaufort Street to Morgan Street, east to west and Hampton Avenue to Park Avenue, north to south. The EPA in May said priority sites include a half-block "that contains multiple vacant storefronts including a dry cleaner and a newspaper printing operation and a parcel that once housed a fertilizer company, a cotton oil production facility and a bulk oil distribution facility."

Lester on Sept. 13 told City Council members there are "specific properties within the grant that we would like to target, and then move to other properties as funding allows."

Tim O'Briant, the city's economic development director, on Wednesday complimented Lester on "an amazing job of securing these grant funds," which he said will help combat pollution and blight.

"These environmental concerns are things that are foundational and have to be worked out before any redevelopment happens," O'Briant said.

The EPA brownfield program, Administrator Michael Regan has said, delivers on the Biden administration's commitment "to lifting up and protecting overburdened communities across America, especially communities that have experienced long periods of disinvestment and decay."

"These assessment and cleanup grants will not only support economic growth and job creation," he continued, "but they will also empower communities to address the environmental, public health, and social issues associated with contaminated land."