City's Brownfield Assessment Sites Ranked for Economic Development Potential

By Anika Clark
Members of the City of New Bedford Brownfields Task Force unveiled a list Thursday ranking some potentially dirty sites for federal environmental assessment dollars.
The properties are brownfields, which means — by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s definition — they contain or may contain a pollutant, contaminant or other hazardous substance that makes their reuse, expansion or redevelopment more difficult. The state Department of Environmental Protection doesn’t formally define brownfields, but they’re usually abandoned, former commercial or industrial properties, according to Scott Alfonse, a task force member and the director of the city’s Department of Environmental Stewardship.
The land parcels, in order of descending priority, include the former Goodyear property on Orchard Street, a portion of the Cliftex lot by the Acushnet River, the former site of Payne Cutlery on Phillips Avenue and Reliable Truss on River Road. Rounding out the list are a vacant lot on Walnut and Pleasant streets, city-owned land on Union Street and the Dawson Brewery on Brook Street.
“In any city of the density like the city of New Bedford, open space is scarce,” said Matthew Morrissey, a task force member and executive director of the New Bedford Economic Development Council. Developing that space can create jobs, he said, but “we can’t look at these sites … as real economic assets to the city unless we understand, at a fairly granular level, what exists in terms of pollutants in the soil.”
The EPA awarded the city $600,000 for this purpose, in three allotments in 2008 and 2009. Of that, $116,000 has been used for assessment work at the former Reliable Truss site, which is slated for development into a park, and at the Payne Cutlery lot. Whether the remaining $484,000 will cover the envisioned assessment work depends on to-be-awarded contracts, but Alfonse said he expects it will be enough.
The task force’s ranking criteria included whether the city has ownership of or access to the land; whether the projects have a strategic priority; the level of health, environmental or safety risks of the contamination; and the potential for the site’s development to help stimulate the city’s economy, boost its quality of life or improve its natural resources. Sites also were generally prioritized if they had known or assumed pollutants but hadn’t had any assessments, or if an initial assessment indicated more studies need to be done.
March 12, 2010
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