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EPA Grants Fund Projects at Seven Brownfield Sites in California

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Seven owners of contaminated sites in California, including the Sierra Nevada municipality of Nevada City, will use grants from an $80 million annual Environmental Protection Agency Brownfields and Land Revitalization program to clean up dangerous sites.

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Friends of Deer Creek, an environmental nonprofit, will subcontract with Nevada City to administrate three $200,000 grants to clean up heavy metals from the tailings of two abandoned mines in recreation areas.

A four-year environmental study of the 40-acre gold mining area funded by a Community Assessment Grant detected lead level spikes as high as 1,700 ppm in popular hiking areas.

The EPA limit for safe exposure is 80 ppm.

A 350-ft-long unstable and eroding waste rock pile was found to be releasing mine waste, including heavy metals, into nearby Deer Creek.

Grant funds also will be used to clean up the 2.2-acre Stiles Mill on Clark Street in downtown Nevada City.

Watershed Coordinator Jane Sellen says work will begin in September with contracts awarded for capping of some contaminated areas along with removal and disposal of contaminated soils.

The cleanup is expected to take three years.

The grants will be matched by $120,000 in cash and in-kind local contributions.

Jared Blumenfeld, regional administrator for EPA in the Pacific Southwest, says, “In addition to creating green jobs, local efforts to revitalize brownfield sites reduce threats to public health while attracting positive investments in our neighborhoods.” Blumenfeld estimates that since the program was enacted in 2002, it has leveraged more than $14 billion in cleanup and redevelopment funding, and created 61,277 jobs in cleanup, construction and redevelopment.

Grants were awarded in part based on the impact the project would have on redevelopment and economic conditions in the region. Miller Children’s Hospital in Long Beach was another $600,000 Brownfields cleanup grant recipient to clean up land contaminated when it was used as a landfill and oil waste materials dumping ground.

The landfill has since closed, but the site contains benzene, toluene, metals and xylenes.

Once cleaned up, the hospital plans a $151 million expansion.

Esparto Unified School District near Woodland received a $200,000 grand to clean up an agricultural site contaminated with arsenic. Once cleared, it will be used as a high school to ease overcrowding.

Another $200,000 grant to the city of Sacramento will be used to clean up an abandoned steam-generating power station that left behind fuel oil and heavy metals in the River District.

The historic buildings are targeted for redevelopment as a Powerhouse Science Center, including a planetarium, dome theater and exhibit space for 350,000 school children annually.

Applications for the 2011 round of grants are due Oct. 15.

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