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Natchez applying for EPA grant

NATCHEZ — The City of Natchez is applying for $400,000 grant it was previously denied from the Environmental Protection Agency that will fund a study to identify and possibly clean up any environmental contamination at industrial sites.

Jay Estes of Eco-Systems Inc. reported to the Natchez Board of Aldermen at its Tuesday meeting that the grant application was nearly complete and ready to be sent.

The city applied for the grant last fiscal year and narrowly missed being rewarded it, Estes said. The city now has the benefit, he said, of including suggested improvements from DEQ to the application.

The grant requires no matching funds from the city.

A brownfield is a site where redevelopment is difficult because of the presence of hazardous, pollutants or contaminants. City Engineer David Gardner said abandoned industrial sites are potential brownfields.

Gardner said he feels the city has a stronger application for the grant this fiscal year.

“We feel we have a good chance of getting the grant this year,” he said.

Gardner and Natchez Inc. Executive Director Chandler Russ said the grant could improve economic development recruitment opportunities for the city.

Russ said the grant not only identifies contamination at industrial sites, it will also provide a plan of action the city can take to clean up the sites.

The grant, Gardner said, will broaden the city’s economic development appeal because a lot of the leg work will already be done for potential industries.

Russ has said if there is any contamination to be found, the study would help identify the source so future developers are not accountable for the pollution, which he said will make the sites more attractive to potential developers.

Eco-Systems Inc., an environmental engineering firm, is completing the grant application on behalf of the city at no cost.

Estes said the city can expect to hear whether it will receive the grant in May 2013.

The projected timeline for the project is three years, and Gardner said it could help the city reach its economic and job creation goals, Gardner said.