Grant could mean cleanup

Published 12:01 am Saturday, October 29, 2011

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

Natchez City Engineer David Gardner said the grant requires no matching funds from the city and will come from the EPA’s Brownfields Program. He said the Eco-Systems Inc. is completing the grant application on behalf of the city at no cost.

A brownfield is a site where redevelopment is difficult because of the presence of hazardous, pollutants or contaminants. Gardner said the Titan Tire and International Paper Company sites are potential brownfields in Natchez.

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By being proactive and applying for the grant and getting the sites’ contamination assessed, Gardner said, a lot of the leg work will already be done for potential industries.

“We (will) have that enormous task already taken care of,” he said.

Gardner said by doing some of the work ahead of time for industries, it puts the city in an advantageous position for industrial development.

“A lot of times that could be the difference from you getting that industry or not getting that industry,” he said.

Gardner said the city applied for a Brownfields Program grant several years ago and was denied.

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.

“The city of Natchez, we want to see business thrive,” he said. “We want economic development, and this is just a way the city can apply for 100 percent federal funds to help us achieve that.”

Natchez Inc. Executive Director Chandler 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.

Russ 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.

Identifying who’s responsible for contamination relieves future owners of any liability for the damages, which, Russ said, will make the sites more attractive to potential developers.

“The liability protection is a big deal and can help put those properties and sites on the radar screen,” he said. “It helps us from a sales point to estimate where we are on these properties.”