BY MARY GARRISON
Representatives for the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality have been making the rounds, spreading the word on potential economic development benefits associated with brownfield assessment and cleanup across the state.
Trey Hess, MDEQ brownfield program coordinator, met with West Point Rotarians recently to let business leaders in on ways taking advantage of assessment grant money could work in their favor, particularly in West Point.
In May, the Environmental Protection Agency awarded the city $400,000 in brownfield assessment grants, for the purposes of targeting areas of potential environmental contamination and determining the necessity of cleanup. According to the EPA website, brownfields are classified as "real property, the expansion, redevelopment or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant."
Half of the grant money awarded to West Point was earmarked specifically for petroleum site assessments, while the remaining $200,000 has been designated for potential hazardous material site assessment. The grant allows for work in the first two phases of the cleanup process, identifying risks and testing if risks are present. Petroleum assessments could include determining if in-ground fuel tanks are or were present on a property and evaluating the potential for spills or leakage, while hazardous material sites could range from the use of heavy chemicals to asbestos.
"In the first phase they just look at the environmental risks," said Melanie Busby, grant writer and manager for the city, in a previous interview. "They'll look at things like whether there was a tank on site, and they may conduct interviews. … They don't do any actual sampling or testing in the first phase."
Should a substantial risk be identified, Busby said grant funding would provide for steps in the second phase, as well, which included procedures such as soil sampling, to determine the level of contamination and an estimated cost to begin the cleanup process.