POTTSTOWN – Montgomery County will receive another million dollars from the federal government for cleaning and reuse of polluted industrial sites.
The announcement was made on Friday by Janet McCabe, deputy administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, who was in town with a number of politicians and prominent figures from all levels of government to take a look at the sights. Pottstown who benefited and could benefit further from this funding.
The current brownfield cleanup poster is the former Pottstown Plating Works site at the highly visible corner of Industrial Highway and South Washington Street, where a concerted effort by local, county, state and federal governments resulted. , in collaboration with a specific local investor in the long-polluted property under reclamation in view of a return to productive use.
“It was wonderful to hear about the local heritage here in Montgomery County,” McCabe said, emphasizing the role of southeastern Pennsylvania at the center of the American industrial revolution. “But we have left a legacy of pollution that needs to be cleaned up.”
Providing funding for the cleaning and reuse of places like Pottstown Plating, which has remained empty and polluted since its closure in 2009, “provides the spark that unlocks more local revenue and investment to create the economies and jobs of the future,” he said. McCabe said.
The district’s tax base can also benefit, McCabe said, noting that studies have shown that a 5 to 15 percent increase in property values follows in the wake of the reclamation of a former industrial site. “For every dollar” of the EPA’s Brownfield Cleanup Fund, “another $ 20 is exploited” by other public and private sources, McCabe said. “I’d say that’s a damn good return on investment.”
“We are so grateful for this million dollars,” said Valerie Arkoosh, chair of the Montgomery County Commissioners. “These were thriving businesses in their day, but a lot of those business processes changed and when they closed, they left some pretty toxic chemicals in their wake.”
“And, let’s face it, a lot of those brownfields are in our most vulnerable communities,” Arkoosh said. “Investments like this in places like Pottstown go a long way in correcting some of the inequities this community has faced.”
“This is a shining example of what happens when the federal, state and local government team up and collaborate with a local businessman.” state representative Joe Ciresi said.
“Honestly, I think this could be a national model of how to pool funding together to turn places like this into an asset,” said Rebecca Swanson, executive director of the Montgomery County Redevelopment Authority which receives federal brownfield funding and takes a final decision on where it is headed.
Praising the site’s progress – “I nearly fell into a pit the last time we were here” – Swanson said, “Pottstown is bringing together a coalition of people who are working hard to bring Pottstown back to being a shining star in County. Montgomery. “
Prior to the press conference, McCabe and other government officials took a tour of seven locations in Pottstown that have already benefited from EPA’s brownfield funding, primarily grants for conducting environmental assessment studies.
Locations included a site on Keystone Boulevard where the Iron Glob Entertainment complex is featured; Pollock Park, a former scrap yard where contaminated soil was found; the public works garage of the municipality; the former Mercury newspaper building that an EPA loan of $ 227,000 is helping convert into a boutique hotel; and the former Hess lot on the corner of College Drive and South Hanover Street, which the district is looking to redevelop.
Over the past 10 years, Pottstown has received $ 860,000 in brownfield grants from the Environmental Protection Agency.
“We love to show what your money is doing,” said Peggy Lee-Clark, executive director of Pottstown Area Economic Development. “Without these funds,” she said, pointing to the Pottstown Plating building, “this project would never have been done. As I’ve often said, it’s a marathon, not a sprint, and some days it’s a slog.”
The key partner in this project, and the man who does much of the slogging, is a man named John Jones, a Pottstown native who has undertaken the cleaning and reuse of several former industrial sites in the district.
As Lee-Clark has pointed out many times, it wasn’t just public funding that was involved in the cleanup. Much of the funding was Jones’ private investment.
“I’ve been a pottstowner forever and my business is here,” Jones said. “I’ve been scared about this building for a long time, but now we’re in a position where I think we’re getting over the hump and, with everyone’s help, we’ll get there.”
US Representative Madeleine Dean, D-4th Dist., Praised Jones for “taking a risk, believing in Pottstown and making this investment.” The project, she said, “is an example of the power of partnership”.
Part of that partnership was made possible by the passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the inflation reduction law, both of which received votes from the Dean of the United States House of Representatives.
The infrastructure bill contains $ 245 million for brownfield remediation this year and will contribute $ 1.5 billion over the next five years, Dean said. In addition to the economic benefits, there are also the public health benefits of removing dangerous pollutants from the environment, he said.